Páidí Ó Sé at 65: 'He was shy in many ways but a big character in other ways'

Páidí Ó Sé at 65: 'He was shy in many ways but a big character in other ways'
The O Se family pictured at Siun and Neasa’s confirmation in 1998.

Today would have been their dad’s birthday but the Sé sisters, Neasa and Siún, don’t need occasions to remember him. For them, for their mother Máire and brother Pádraig, he is never far away.

Today, there might be a message or two on their family WhatsApp group appropriately titled “Muintuir Ui Shé” about a man who you can certain would not have retired at 65. In a Zoom meeting on Thursday afternoon, they recalled memories of Páidí Ó Sé, their father:

JF: Is there any memory about your dad that comes back regularly for you?

Siún: For me, a lot of people would see him as the Kerry manager, player and publican but he was actually really shy behind it all and gentle. A lot of people wouldn’t associate him with those traits but we would. He was very good fun and craic at the same time. He loved hanging around with us, loved watching boxsets with us, spinning into town with us, always wanted to be in the middle of us. He wanted to be our friend rather than our dad but if we needed anything he was there. When we were in college in UL, he would call into us on the way home from Dublin and bring us for dinner. He’d collect us after a night out. You’d have a puncture and you’d ring him. The little things that dads do, I suppose. He was very kind.

JF: People would have got that sense about him even though he was so competitive?

Neasa:

He was a very good publican. We learned a lot from him, how we was able to deal with the different types of people that came into that bar. He always had something to say to them and was able to get their attention. They didn’t have to be into football, he was able to relate to every type of person.

JF: That shyness, do you think he had a persona when he was a manager?

Neasa: I think it was more that he was what he was at the same time he valued his privacy. When the craic was over, he went away home having had enough of it.

Siún: I remember Mam saying when they were first met he was very shy but when he took over Kruger’s in Dún Chaoin and the islanders used to drink there his personality started to grow then. He became more confident and it worked from there. I still would have said he was shy in many ways but a big character in other ways. He was hard to pinpoint exactly. I knew our close friends used to love coming over to our house hoping that our dad would be there because they used to knock so much enjoyment out of him.

JF: The annual tournament is a great testament to his memory and yourselves for continuing it. But how difficult was the first one in 2013 a couple of months after his death?

Neasa: That particular year, most of the work had been done by him so it was just about seeing it through. It was Eurospar and Cuisine de France sponsoring that year and all the work had been done. It was the first year when it had become a really big deal and a lot of work had been put into it so there was no way it was going to be cancelled. It was a matter of seeing it through. Even though it was difficult, it wasn’t either because it was the right thing to do. Since then, my brother has been in charge of it. It runs like clockwork now. He has it down to a tee.

JF: What characteristics do you think yourselves and Pádraig take from your dad? I should ask Neasa about Siún and vice versa.

Neasa: Dad had a great memory. He’d remember any face and any name and Siún you have that. I don’t. I can’t remember what happened last week. Pádraig is shy too and maybe he picked that up off him.

Siún: I’d agree with you about Pádraig. With Neasa, she wears her heart on her sleeve and Dad was definitely like that. Like, if there was something bothering them you’d know straight away.

Neasa: When Dad passed, Pádraig was in his first semester in first year in UL and he dropped out. He went back and he’s been in the pub since. Obviously, he has Mam there but from 18 he didn’t have Dad there to guide him. So he kind of did it himself and you can tell now the amount of work he has put into the place. He’s still only 25, 26 and nothing fazes him. I won’t tell you what Dad used to call him (laughs)!

JF: Did you ever feel you had to share your dad because of his fame?

Neasa: Never. It was never a negative.

Siún: We never knew anything different. I’m just thinking back, I was seven when he took over the Kerry seniors in ‘96 and before that he had the pub so we were born into the pub, which was across the road. At that stage, he was an ex-Kerry footballer and he was always well-known so it was always there. We grew up with it.

Neasa: Mam as well would have kept us fairly sheltered from it. On an All-Ireland day, we always stuck to our routine from game to game. We always took the first train up the Sunday morning. We never went up the night before. Always went to the same place that Sunday morning. Met him after but then he’d go away with the team. Sometimes we would go with them but we were very much with Mam.

JF: That sounds like one of his piseógs.

Neasa: Yeah, we definitely have that trait as well. We’re all superstitious.

JF: What do you think he would say about the pair of you settled now in Celbridge and Dingle?

Neasa: He would have plenty to say but he would be laughing about it, me with a Kildare man (Pádraig) with Galway family. We have Fiadh who is five now, Michael is nine months and there’s another on the way.

JF: That’s great. And what would he have to say about little Páidí being pledged to the local rivals by your husband Paul (Geaney), Siún?

Siún: There is definitely good banter and craic about it. If he does play, I think my dad would have been happy enough with that.

Neasa: Who knows, if Dad was still around Páidí might be An Ghaeltacht but he would be delighted either way.

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