He was a mortal after all.
Throughout his 57 years, Páidí Ó Sé exuded an air of fearlessness and immortality, always looking for and taking on fresh challenges.
He achieved legendary status, but his colourful and accomplished life ended all too suddenly on Saturday.
By lunchtime, the country knew he had passed on. Stunned exiles were ringing home from places like Atlanta and Sydney to check if the news was true. The tributes were already pouring in.
But it was in his native Ventry that the deepest and most heart-wrenching shock was being felt.
At around midday, word began to filter around the seaside village, about 8km west of Dingle. Phonecalls were made and neighbour called on neighbour with the bad news from Ard a’ Bhothair, that Páidí had been found dead in the home where he lived with his wife Máire, daughters Neasa and Siún, and son Pádraig Óg.
Ó Sé — one of the sporting stars commemorated in a tribute at last night’s BBC Personality of the Year Awards — had felt ill on Saturday morning and had gone back to bed. He was found by his wife at about 11.20am.
Locals were also taken aback because Páidí had been looking and feeling well in recent weeks. On Friday night he played cards in Quinn’s bar in Ventry, sipping tea and enjoying the craic.
A close friend, Mícheál Ó Sé, broadcaster and former Kerry footballer from Ventry, said: “I just couldn’t believe it when I heard the terrible news because he was in great form when we parted the night before. Páidí was the life and soul of the area and was always looking ahead and planning something.
“He’ll be hugely missed. There’s a scamall dubh [black cloud] over the parish today.
“He was a terrific friend to have. He would do anything for you and would go out of his way to help anybody.
“He had a unique ability to form friendships and was the type of man you’d not forget once you had met him.”
The talk all weekend was of one man only. In Jimmy O’Brien’s bar in Killarney, where Páidí often celebrated after All-Irelands, they spoke of a hero who would be remembered for many a long day. “There’s only one word to sum up Páidí — special. He was the spirit of Kerry,” said Mr O’Brien.
They all raised their glasses to that.
* The remains of Páidí Ó Sé will repose at his home, Ard a’ Bhothair, Ventry, all day today. Removal will be to Ventry church prior to funeral Mass at noon tomorrow. Burial will be in nearby Reilig Chaitlíona immediately afterwards.
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