Tomás Ó Sé – 80 not out By John Fogarty

“Personal pride is a good thing. The team is number one but you’re out there on the field and you’ve a job to do. I’ve to mark a fella and he’s my business. Sometimes when we win games and I play terribly I feel like it’s a loss. You go out the next day and try to buck up your performance.” — Tomás Ó Sé, 2008
Tomás Ó Sé – 80 not out By John Fogarty

Might there be a reason why Tomás Ó Sé scored just 1-1 of his 3-31 championship tally in his first six seasons? His uncle Páidí, and manager for that period, intimates there may have been one.

“I would never have been an advocate of fellas going up and scoring from defence,” he says when asked of his nephew’s attacking attributes. “As a defender, I’d always preferred to be remembered for stopping people from scoring than doing it myself.”

It was under Jack O’Connor that Tomás was unleashed, his debut season in charge seeing the wing-back win his first of five All Stars and the footballer of the year award.

While player and manager wouldn’t be close, they have won three All-Ireland crowns, five Munster and three league titles.

Perhaps the An Gaeltacht man’s poorest season came under O’Connor in 2006 when, with the meteoric rise of Kieran Donaghy, he had to curb his soloing.

He was substituted at half-time in the final against Mayo but it proved to be a mere blip and motivation for another three All Stars.

“That’s driving me on more than anything else,” he said the following year. “I don’t ever want to be taken off at half-time in Croke Park ever again.”

Sunday’s edgy win over Westmeath marked the 34-year-old’s 40th championship appearance in an O’Connor Kerry team, their return reading 32 wins, four draws and four defeats.

Tomás has spoken openly about his respect for O’Connor but vividly remembered the difficulties his uncle faced picking a second nephew on the Kerry team for a forgettable debut against Cork 14 years ago.

But as Tomás is poised to equal older brother Darragh’s 81 championship appearances tomorrow, the all-time record in Gaelic football, Páidí paid tribute to him.

“It is an achievement even though we wouldn’t be a gang for keeping records or accounts of appearances.

“Yerra, I’d say he doesn’t know himself, to be honest. He doesn’t do it for appearances — the three boys never have.

“He’s still playing for the enjoyment of the game and the big thing is he’s still playing good football.”

But for summer suspensions in 2010 and ’11, Tomás may already well have the honour of the most “capped” Gaelic footballer ever. However, Páidí maintains Tomás counts himself fortunate to have played so long.

“He’s been very lucky. He’s had a pretty clear run of injuries down through the year and has always kept himself in good condition.

“To stay injury free and mind himself takes a lot of dedication and he has shown that time and time again. He’s had a good run of it now so long may it last.”

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