Today, on what would have been the Kerry legend’s 60th birthday, hundreds of family, friends, and admirers will gather at Ard a’ Bhóthair in Ventry for the unveiling of a memorial to the man known affectionally as PO.
Ó Sé passed away suddenly in December 2012 but the bronze statue alongside his famous pub will ensure the memory of the former Kerry player and manager will live on for generations.
Clare sculptor Seamus Connolly was commissioned to create the statue to honour one of West Kerry’s most revered exports.
Connolly is no stranger to honouring GAA royalty, having won widespread acclaim for his tributes to Dermot Earley and Mick Mackey. Yet he admitted that a job of this magnitude was both “exciting and terrifying”.
“I was commissioned about a year and half ago by a committee that included Páidi’s brother Tom, Pat Spillane, Mick Galwey, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, and many, many others.
“It is exciting and terrifying at the same time to be given such an honour,” he said last night from his Loop Head studio in West Clare. “Exciting and an honour to be given such a task but terrifying given the responsibility.
“I spent several months researching Páidi to get the exact image that summed him up and hopefully we have achieved that.
“I never met him but could still vividly remember him from his playing days when Kerry were winning All-Ireland title after title. I was trying to capture the iconic player with this tremendous physique and an incredible will to win. What we came up with his an image of him with the ball in his left hand bursting up field as was his trademark from his playing days.”
Ó Sé was a larger-than-life figure — fittingly, so too is Connolly’s work.
“It is slightly larger than life-size and will be mounted on a beautiful piece of Valentia slate,” he said. “It would take four strong men to lift it. Thankfully we had a teleporter to put it in place for us during the week.”
Connolly worked to capture the essence of Ó Sé, spending months moulding and sculpting a clay likeness which was eventually used to create the moulds for the finalised bronze work.
So what does Connolly believe was the essence of his subject?
“First there was this incredible physique, but the other thing that struck me was his absolute focus to shut down everything else in his quest to win,” he said. “That singlemindness, that 100% focus on the task at hand was what impressed me most and left the biggest impression. Hopefully this work can convey at least some of that to those who will come to see it.”
The statute will be officially unveiled by All-Ireland winning Kerrymanager Mick O’Dwyer today.