Listen: What does Dáithí's son want for his birthday? A vaccine for nana

Television presenter Dáithí O'Sé tells Esther N McCarthy about three defining moments in his life from becoming a father, to getting the Rose of Tralee gig and repeating his Leaving Cert when he was 18
Listen: What does Dáithí's son want for his birthday? A vaccine for nana

Dáithí Ó'Se is the latest guest on The Moments That Made Me, the Weekend Podcast

Success story

"I didn't really fit into the whole school thing, looking back, I really wish I'd applied myself a bit more and made something of myself today.

I was working as a butcher, from first year in school, all the way up.  There's a history of emigration in our family - and there was always a very big American influence growing up. 

I probably have more relations in Chicago than I do at home in west Kerry and a lot of the people who went to primary school with me went to America as well.

So that was really the plan for me - my own plan for myself, there was no pressure. Going to college wasn't really something that dawned on me.

When I did apply myself in fifth year and sixth year, I only got 300 points and I remember thinking Jesus, I worked very hard for that, I'm better than that. That summer, I went over to my brother Danny in Chicago and the plan was to stay. My mother said, come home and repeat your Leaving Cert and I said, ah Maim, come on! I was working in a nightclub in downtown Chicago at 18 and my mother wanted me to come home into a school uniform?!

But I felt I was worth a bit more, that I could do something, and I got an Arts course in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. When I look back 25 years later, that was the first time I put a marker down and believed in myself.

Success to me isn't the fancy car or big house. I met a fella driving a 122 recently, and there I was with my 2011 with 210 thousand miles on it - I put a new timing chain on it before Christmas, I'll get another few thousand miles out of it! It's the way we were brought up. One person asked me what would you do if you won the euro millions, would you buy a car, no way -  I've just got two new tyres for it!

I'll tell you about what success looks like - it was my son, Míchael Óg's birthday on St Patrick's Day. We asked 'What do you want for your birthday?' He said, 'A vaccine for nana'.

When your son comes out with something like that you say now you have it. I always say judge me as a dad if you're going to judge me at all and if you're going to have a swipe, make sure it's a good one!

A rose by any other name 

Becoming the host of the Rose of Tralee in 2010 was a big moment for me. I didn't just walk into the gig, I had a long association with it. There's a parade every year, and you're up at the front, there are tens of thousands of people lining the streets of Tralee - and they'd all be shouting for you and they'd have my picture up there as well and you're thinking this is great! I never played for Kerry but this has to be the equivalent of playing for Kerry.

Of course, I met my wife, Rita Talty, at the festival. It sounds a bit dodge, but I promise it's not. I was on the judging panel, she was the New Jersey Rose. I remember the first time I saw her, her coming into the room, beautifully tanned, red dress on. I was interested in her as a person but I did say she was - just wow.

We got together in 2010 but were friends before. We messaged each other every two months, first of all, then it was once a week, then it was once a day, then it was all day, every day.

Daithi O Se and Rita Talty arrive out of the Church called St Mary's in Dingle as Husband and Wife . Over 1,000 people clapped with joy as they arrived out. Pic: Dominick Walsh
Daithi O Se and Rita Talty arrive out of the Church called St Mary's in Dingle as Husband and Wife . Over 1,000 people clapped with joy as they arrived out. Pic: Dominick Walsh

In 2020, I was in America for a show. We were supposed to take 2 days off in 3 weeks, I made sure one of those days in New York. We hung out, we walked around Manhattan until about 4am drinking coffee, we were friends before we were anything else. Which was strange for me, I never really worked like that - maybe I was doing it wrong all those years!

The Rose of Tralee is an occasion all around the world where Irish people come together, they are really proud of it. It's worth about 10million a year to the town - it's Tralee's time to shine.

This year, we're still waiting to hear what the word is, I'm still very hopeful we'll have a Rose of Tralee in 2021.

The night before my dad died, he told me I was great - I should have known something was up. I wouldn't mind, he didn't say it to me at all, it said it to Rita! How does he do that, presenting the Rose of Tralee? I should have smelt a rat. Pure Irish dad, didn't know how to look a fella in the eye and give a compliment.

The first night he went to the dome, you could see him in the audience, waiting for the ads to make a break for the door so he'd have a few pints. It meant a lot to them, it's only when you get a chance to look back, you realise it. 

In the name of the father

Ógie was supposed to land on St Patrick's Day, and Rita's parents own an Irish pub in New Jersey and they burst out laughing when they heard the due date - the busiest day of the year!

We were just so excited, this was going to be the best thing, not realising it was going to be a million times better than I had ever expected.

When Míchael Óg was born, I had taken some earth from the front garden in Kerry and some grass from Croke Park and I rubbed it on his hands and feet. The first clay his feet touched was Kerry soil and the first grass was from Croke Park. When they took Rita out, it was me and baby in the room and I just remember him looking up at me in that moment and I just couldn't believe that I had this feeling inside me that I never knew existed. I was 38 years of age and thinking, I've never felt like this before, my own son looking back up at me.

I remember the 4am feeds and taking the time, just me and him, nothing before or since has topped that feeling of seeing my own baby looking up at me and that smile. Ógie is a happy-go-lucky fella, he's great craic, a right little rogue.

I don't like giving advice, we all hit hurdles, but if you do end up with a baby that eats well and sleeps well, don't tell anyone, for two reasons - they won't believe you and they'll hate you! I didn't give Sinead Kennedy any advice when she left on her maternity leave.  I just said to her, you're in for the time of your life. There's a gear inside me that I didn't know I had, and you don't know it's there until the child looks back at you. The best is yet to come in her life.

The only thing I regret is that my father and Míchael Óg never met. Dad knew we were expecting him though and he was delighted. He died in August and Ógie came along in March I believe there was some kind of handing over of the baton in some kind of outer portal - the number 16 on his back, the sub coming in!

  • Dáithí O'Sé presents a new music series Comhluadar Ceoil on TG4 every Sunday at  8.30pm. He meets some of the most musical families and groups in Ireland, including Sharon Shannon and Family, Altan, Hothouse Flowers, Clann Mhic Ruairí, Téada, Danú and The Kilfenora Céilí Band.

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