Mike Quirke on Marc Ó Sé's brilliant career: 'Picasso trapped as a house painter'

So Marc is gone. And with him, the living and breathing Ó Sé dynasty is no more. 
Mike Quirke on Marc Ó Sé's brilliant career: 'Picasso trapped as a house painter'

It’s a sobering thought for all of us in Kerry to think we will never see any of the famous brothers grace the manicured sod of Fitzgerald stadium in high June, or in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day, ever again.

Think about that for a minute… three brothers from under the one roof, from a small corner in the heart of west Kerry, all went on to become three of the country’s most lauded footballing heroes. Unbelievable.

During my time involved inside the four walls of a Kerry dressing room, there were always dangerous guys you had to be constantly mindful of. I used always sit inside the door on the right, next to Kieran Donaghy and Paul Galvin among others. In the half hour just after training or games when the pressure valve was open and guys were able to breathe a little more freely, most of us descended back into adolescence.

Marc was deadly in that time. He used to sit at the far side of the dressing room directly opposite to us, like a cheetah, lurking in the long grass, waiting for his unsuspecting victim to drop his guard for a second. His preferred weapon of choice would be the strappings he’d remove from both ankles. He’d take great care to ball it up into the perfect round missile, and store them up at his feet… just eyeing his prey, waiting for his chance.

The second you relax and take your eyes off him. It was like an old Batman comic… Wham! Bang! Wallop! He’d hurl his projectiles across the room as if shot out of a rocket launcher.

And as soon as you got smacked upside your head with a sweaty ankle strapping, it was too late to react. Marc would be already looking in a different direction talking to an accomplice like Tom Sullivan, and your chance at retribution was gone. In the showers a few minutes after he’d somehow hold in the laughing, and swear blind it was Tom who was doing the throwing; he was only an innocent bystander caught up in the cross-fire. He’d nearly make you feel sorry for him, as you stand there nursing a swollen lip with an ice cube after getting nailed by another Ó Sé ambush.

Everybody knows the eye-watering numbers; five All-Ireland’s, 10 Munsters, three All Stars, and one footballer of the year. They’re the really obvious bits. But they don’t fully do justice to the calibre of footballer and team-mate he was with Kerry. While he was an absolute messer of the highest order when the time was appropriate, he was also viciously serious about his craft and the proud tradition of Kerry football when it was time to work. At a time where the majority of inside backs were destructive by nature, Marc’s corner-back game was a rose among thorns. He had all those classic corner-back traits; he was aggressive, had brilliant foot quickness, superb timing, and was as tough as teak. But unlike a lot of number twos and fours, he didn’t need to pull or drag, he didn’t talk shit in your ear or hit guys with dirty strokes.

What separated him from most others in his position; he was the most constructive inside back I have ever seen. He could break up and attack and deliver a 40-yard foot pass off either leg to set Kerry off on the counter-attack. If we really needed a score, in the dying moments of a tight game, how many times has he burst up the field to get on the end of a move before stroking it over the bar from 30 yards, but not before leaving some poor character eating grass after throwing one of his patented dummy solos. Corner-backs weren’t supposed to be so skilful.

But he wanted that responsibility of mattering to Kerry. He wanted that weight of expectation. And more often than not, he delivered.

To Marc, like it was to his brothers, the pressure was a privilege. And as I said on Twitter yesterday, for his whole career, he was Pablo Picasso trapped as a house painter. He was an artist restricted by his environment but did his painting dutifully. I genuinely believe he could have played in whatever line of the field he set his mind to, such was his footballing ability and drive.

Watching Kerry run out won’t be the same without him. But at least guys can rest a little easier in the dressing room after training now he and his projectiles are gone. He may have only have been painting houses for the past 16 years, but the colour in his work will shine through when others have long faded.

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