Laughs mix with tears as Páidí is remembered

Everyone has a “Páidí story” and they came yesterday as fast as the man himself ever ran around Croke Park.

Laughs mix with tears as Páidí is remembered

There was a constant flow of mourners to Páidí Ó Sé’s home in Ventry, where he lay in repose. Locals remembered him with deep affection and recalled his hectic life.

The football legend’s coffin was in a ground floor room, with his widow Máire, daughters Neasa and Siún, and son Pádraig Óg sitting alongside. Also in the room were his last surviving brother, Thomas, and footballing nephews Darragh, Tomás, and Marc, all standing in line.

Páidí’s beloved green and gold Kerry jersey, and red and white Gaeltacht jersey, lay on his body, with his eight All-Ireland medals resting on his chest.

People were sad but that did not stop smiles from breaking across many a face as they related incidents concerning the inimitable personality and ready wit of the footballing legend.

A neighbour and friend from childhood, Muiris Fenton, revealed a secret which, he stressed, had been known to only four people for almost 50 years.

On a day after the 1964 All-Ireland final, in which Galway defeated Kerry, Muiris and Páidí decided to go for a kickabout inside the parish church, opposite Páidí’s home.

Páidí, then aged 9, was pretending to be his first cousin Tom Long, a member of the Kerry team, while Muiris took on the identity of another Kerry player, Mick O’Connell. A statue of Our Lady was the Galway full-back Noel Tierney.

“My job was to keep kicking the ball up the aisle to Páidí, but one of my kicks went slightly astray and towards the ‘full-back’. Páidí went for the ball and hit the statue, which was three times as big as him; a mighty shoulder charge,” said Muiris.

“He put the statue spinning and a skelp came off the right elbow when it hit the ground. We took off out of the church like lightning. Later than evening, Páidí’s mother Beatrice came into the church to lock it up for the night. She knew what happened, but said nothing.

“But, she then went quietly to a local handyman, John O’Donoghue, who did a repair job and came back a few days later with some bright blue paint, exactly the same as was on the statue, to finish the job.”

Nobody was any the wiser and the secret remained among the four.

Years later, John, Muiris, and Páidí happened to be in Páidí’s pub together at closing time, with nobody else present. John, known as a funnyman, remarked that he had never got the recognition he deserved for being “Our Lady’s right-hand man”.

Muiris said yesterday: “I’m the only survivor of the four, so if I didn’t tell the story it might have died with me.”

Kerry football great Pat Spillane, who played alongside Ó Sé, had a bagful of yarns, each one better than the other.

One of the few things Páidí feared in life was flying. Just before they boarded a plane taking them on an overseas trip on one occasion, Spillane noticed Páidí had had a ‘few scoops’ to help settle his nerves.

Spillane, however, moved to assure him that he was quite safe and that his day had not yet come.

Quick as a flash, Páidí retorted: “Yeah, but what if the pilot’s day has come!?”

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