Just when Marc Ó Sé thought he had heard it all about his famed uncle Páidí, he was presented with another yarn at a recent parent-teacher meeting in The Green CBS.
“This lady came over and asked me how her son was getting on. He was getting on great, his homework was good and his discipline was good. She was going away when she said she had to tell me this yarn about Páidí.
“She explained that when my mam and my dad lived in Listowel, Páidí was sent there after getting fucked out (expelled) of The Sem. He was repeating his Leaving Cert but he had a routine where if he hadn’t training with St Michael’s he would go into town and have two or three pints at 16, 17 years of age.
“Mossie Kelleher in Tralee was in the same class as Páidí and he would have told me this. I thought Mossie was telling shite but it was backed up by this lady in the parent-teacher meeting.
“This lady explained that my grandmother Beatrice was paying for Páidí to do geography grinds two evenings a week, the evenings he wasn’t training. But she said he started turning up for only one grind. ‘It got so bad, Marc,’ she said, ‘that your uncle had my aunt lying to Beatrice. Beatrice would be ringing asking how he was getting on and she would be saying ‘he’s flying’ when Páidí would be down in the pub’.
“Páidí had such a way of getting around people — the aunt would have done anything for him. The lady said she felt so bad lying to Beatrice but she did it anyway. He was lethal like that.”
Tomorrow would have been Páidí’s 65th birthday and Marc knows at one stage or another a memory will spark him into a fit of laughter.
“It was the divilment, the craic. When I was living in Dingle, he could call to you at any hour of the night. He could call at midnight and you’d be in the bed and he’d call for the kettle to be put on and you’d be saying to yourself, ‘Well fuck this fella, I’m up at seven’.
“The next thing he’d have you won over. After two minutes, he’d have you enraptured and having the craic. He could leave then at three or four o’clock laughing as much that he had twisted your arm and you had to get up in the morning.”
The stories about him are endless.
Not long before he died, in late 2012, Páidí had convinced Marc to join him on a trip to Dublin where they ended up in colourful company.
“We ended up being inside in a room with Denis O’Brien, PJ Mara and a few others inside in Denis O’Brien’s apartment above the Four Seasons Hotel. PJ Mara, impeccably dressed, turns around to Páidí and says, ‘Páidí, is Darragh going to go for politics?’ Páidí was adamant, ‘You can be sure of it, kiddo. You can be absolutely sure of it.’
“I then piped up that I doubted it but Páidí turned on me, ‘What are you talking about? Sure wasn’t I talking to him this morning. He’s raring to go.’ It was pure bullshit, he was just telling the boys what they wanted to hear. That craic was endless. You just wanted to be in his company because every day was an adventure with him.”
Marc does confirm Tomás’ story in his autobiography about the time they and Páidí were drinking wine with Charles Haughey one morning in his Kinsealy home.
“As Tomás said, he threw us out a glass of wine and it was top stuff. Charlie was swirling it around the glass and Páidí had it straight down the hatch in two seconds. Páidí was then asking Mrs Haughey to open a second bottle as Charlie was upstairs now readying himself to go somewhere else and we were mortified but the man couldn’t give a flying fuck.”
As for Tomás’ story about the day Martin Sheen arrived in Páidí’s pub in Ventry, Marc says that was embellished.
“Tomás said it was him who noticed that Martin Sheen had landed; it was me. That fella wouldn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
“He did the same on the radio the other night. I was listening to him on with Des Cahill talking about how (Steve) Cooney and (James) Begley played in the pub on Sunday nights. Tomás was never allowed over because I was the one playing the accordion and as it was a school night the rest had to stay in the house. Tomás would be disconsolate that he was left at home. You’d swear listening to him that he was there every Sunday but he was hardly there.”
While he made his senior Kerry debut under Páidí in 2002, Marc didn’t win any of his five All-Ireland medals during his uncle’s term. But the advice he provided him after a disappointing performance in the ’02 All-Ireland final defeat to Armagh stood with him for his career.
“He said, ‘I know your footballing ability, this will make you stronger and you’ll come back from this.’ And it was like all you needed. When you needed a gee-up, he gave you a gee-up.
“In 2007, I got the ball against Dublin in the semi-final and I tore up the Hogan Stand side from the 21 to their 13 and I think I passed the ball to (Paul) Galvin who pointed it.
“I remember meeting Páidí after the match and he was proud as punch — ‘Jesus Christ, you got me awful excited going up the Hogan Stand side’. He might have said something a little more explicit than that but those comments would stay with you. There’s not a day that you don’t think of him. His memory certainly lives on because so many people still talk about him and revere him so much.”