A man with a giant heart, Páidí Ó Sé is an irreplaceable loss in Ard a’ Bhothair, writes Diarmuid O’Flynn
A LIONHEART, larger than life, a living legend, that was Páidí Ó Sé.
“Everyone’s friend,” said his old buddy and former teammate Jack O’Shea; every one of those friends have their own favourite Páidí story to tell.
I knew him only in a professional capacity yet in our all-too-brief dealings I have two memories that stand out. The first is from over a decade ago, a hand- written Mass card that arrived only a few days after my brother Tadhg was killed in a road accident; this told me of a soft, sensitive soul behind the tough image. The second was a few years later when I was in the Ventry area and ventured into his pub one late evening wondering if by any chance they served food. Who was there but the man himself and as it happened he had just had his dinner sent up to the pub. He insisted (and I mean insisted!) that we share it, which I happily did — it was a feast! That told of his generous heart; I believe he would have shared his last shilling with you.
All through the ceremony yesterday the stories flowed, his brother Tomás taking us on a rip-roaring loving journey through Páidí’s illustrious football career, culminating perhaps in the quip that “all Páidí’s friends had the X factor but CJ [Haughey, former Taoiseach] was the boss of them all”!
Nephews Darragh, Tomás and Marc each had their own anecdotes, his great friend Mícheál Ó Sé regaled us with a few more, as did MC Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh. Yarns, tales, stories, all contributing to the legend.
His former manager, Mick O’Dwyer, remembers a footballer of ferocious drive and passion. “The Munster final in Cork, the day he hopped the ball so hard off the dressing-room floor that when it rebounded it broke the fluorescent light overhead!
“He then took a run at the door, didn’t give Murt Galvin a chance to open it but hit it a belt of a shoulder; by the time Murt let him out the whole team was ready — sure that would motivate anyone! That was Páidí, a marvellous motivator.”
It wasn’t just before games either, said Jack O’Shea. “His speech after the ’85 All-Ireland final, that’s my enduring memory of him. It was ‘as Gaeilge’, a fantastic speech. I even looked at it again this week just to remind myself and it brings you straight back to the occasion.
“His leadership, the passion he had, the love for football, for Kerry and for the Irish language, it was all in there. The real Páidí Ó Sé came through in that speech. If you met Páidí Ó Sé only once, you never forgot him. He’s not one in a million, he’s one in many millions, irreplaceable.”
Former rugby international but also former Kerry footballer Mick Galwey remembers a friend. “My favourite memories of Páidí have nothing to do with football.
“I’m lucky enough to have a house across the road here and many a night I spent with Páidí just having the craic, one-to-one. There was no better company, ever; a wealth of knowledge and great fun. He’ll be sorely missed around here.”
That was also the sentiment of another former footballer and Kerry FM broadcaster, Weeshie Fogarty. “My best memory of Páidí is of just sitting down with him away from the madding crowd, in a quiet corner, where he’d ask you, with genuine concern, about your health, your family, which very few people with his kind of profile will do.”
That’s the point, isn’t it? Lionheart, yes, a living legend — Páidí Ó Sé is all of that, and that legend will live on. Important to remember though is that Páidí Ó Sé was first a man, a husband, a father, a brother, an uncle, a friend and as we head into Christmas, his passing has left a huge void in the lives of all those who were closest to him. “It was like hearing that Slea Head itself had fallen into the ocean,” said Mícheál Ó Sé, on how he felt on getting news of Páidí’s death.
Westmeath footballer Rory O’Connell, a county Páidí had led from the wilderness to its first Leinster senior football title in 2004, knows that feeling.
“I lost my own mother, Kay, only six months ago so I know the pain the family are feeling now.”
Probably the most poignant moment of the whole funeral came when Páidí’s teenage son Pádraig Óg rose to speak. “People reflect on Páidí as being a great footballer, manager, publican and a great character but for me Páidí was a big family man, while always being very good to the people around him. I was very close to my father and after a brief chat with a famous Tyrone manager [Mickey Harte, who lost his daughter Michaela in tragic circumstances] I was told how I can now become much closer to him.
“And that’s what I’m hoping everyone else who knew Páidí will do.”
The legend will live on, will grow even; this week, however, there is that void in the Ó Sé home, there is the irreplaceable loss in Ard a’ Bhothair.
In the church Jimmy Kelly (brother of Luke) sang Raglan Road, a poem composed by Patrick Kavanagh in honour of a dark-haired beauty from Dingle; it was a favourite of Páidí’s in honour of his own dark-haired beauty, his wife Máire. Let us think of them today.
‘People came from all over to see him’
* Former rugby international Mick Galwey: I played with him in 1986, but didn’t really get to know him until I began to come around his area on holidays. I had great nights with him, just chats and fun. He will be sorely missed around these parts.
* Former Offaly footballer Seamus Darby: A great character and a great player. Though I played against him, he was never marking me and thanks be to God for that. He would call to my pub in Toomevara while passing on his way to Dublin and we’d have a cup of tea. Though my goal cost Kerry the five-in-a-row in 1982, I’ve always been made very welcome in Kerry, especially by Paídí.
* Former Kerry player Tommy Doyle: I’ve been playing with him since we were 12. He was the best underage player I ever saw. With Paídí behind you, you couldn’t go too far wrong. I spoke to him only last week. He’d ring out of the blue and we’d have great chats.
* Former Offaly player Matt Connor: He was a leader on the field, who played hard but fair. It was always wonderful to meet such a marvellous personality who typified Kerry in so many ways.
* Former taoiseach Brian Cowen: He’d always lift your spirits when you’d meet him. You’d definitely go away in better form. A renowned character and wonderful to be with. He’ll be missed hugely.
* Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte: He did wonders for the tourism industry in the Dingle Peninsula, which he was always promoting. He was a magnet and a tourist attraction himself because people came from all over Ireland to see him.
* Seamus Mac Gearailt (former joint manager of the Kerry team with Paídí): An inspirational man who got the best out of players. He exuded confidence and that rubbed off on everyone around him.
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