Pádraig Ó Sé wasn’t even a teenager when An Ghaeltacht last graced Croke Park but that 2004 All-Ireland senior club final defeat to Caltra was one of those formative experiences.
As those most west of Kerry men hope to seal a return date to GAA HQ against Moy tomorrow, the memory is a cautionary tale for the half-back.
“We thought we had the game won before we went up there. That was our biggest problem that year.
"We had a couple of injuries, Dara Ó Cinnéide on the day never complained about putting out his back the week before the game and Aodán Mac Gearailt had problems too but we never used them as excuses. We were beaten by the better team on the day.
“The Meehans were excellent that day. It was one of the biggest clashes on All-Ireland club final day. Micheál Ó Sé told us that Croke Park were expecting 20,000 that day but I think almost 40,000 showed up.
"A lot of them were neutrals to see the Ó Sés and the Meehans going at it. It’s something we don’t like to remember but we got there as well. It would be nice to get there one more time at intermediate grade.”
After a series of fallow years in which they skirted with a drop to Division 4, the club’s gander is well and truly up again having returned to the senior grade this season.
An area as remote as Slea Head, so heavily dependent on tourism, isn’t exactly conducive to retain players.
After years of service, Ó Sé’s cousin Tomás found the commute from Cork too much before rowing in with recently-crowned Munster senior champions Nemo Rangers – “When he first went to Nemo, he thought he would be playing with the intermediates or the B team but he was drafted straight into the seniors and the very best of luck to him.”
But he was one of many. Marc is impressing as player-manager but there was natural wastage as Darragh and others from that fine team of the early 2000s stepped away. Restoring players of that ilk has been a process.
“The likes of MacGearailt brothers, Dara Ó Cinneide, the Ó Conchuir brothers, Brendan Walsh, JJ Corduff, Cathal Ó Dubhda… all these players were big players for the club.
"We just had a difficulty in replacing them because on top of having four or five county players we had a lot of very good club players.”
Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne’s recent glories have assisted An Ghaeltacht as they have done been Dingle and Lispole.
“We probably have youth on our side in that a lot of our players are under the age of 23 or 24. Marc would be the elder statesman.
"A lot of the lads would have come through the Pobalscoil team so we would all be very friendly with one another. We would have spent a lot of time with each other growing up and we would be close.”
The county intermediate final win over Templenoe, in which Ó Sé excelled, and the Munster success have brought more people back to the club too.
“I’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of people who have gotten behind us; people who you mightn’t see at a game at all are starting to come.”
The Ó Sé clan will be in O’Moore Park tomorrow as well as Paul Geaney, partner of Ó Sé’s sister Siún, and their one-year-old Páidí, already deemed ‘a Dingle man’ by his father to the jovial chagrin of the maternal side of his family.
“Once he enjoys playing football, that’s the main thing,” smiles Ó Sé.
“I was in the same position myself as Páidí’s son and there was pressure put on me but the main thing is you enjoy it.”
The thing is Ó Sé appears to be playing the best football of his career having previously been a Kerry U21 and junior. How he put a wrap on Killian Spillane in the win over
Templenoe was deemed worthy of the man of the match award.
“I’m enjoying it particularly this season. We had a great start to the year last year when we won Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta and we hadn’t that won in about 20 years and that gave us a good lift to drive on.”
The annual competition comes to An Ghaeltacht next year hence the determination to make the most of the successes before Christmas in promoting the December gala in Killarney to raise funds for a second pitch to Gallarus.
For now, though, it’s Moy who occupy their minds of Ó Sé and his team-mates and knowing it’s not just the Cavanagh brothers that they have to try and negate.
“You’re never going to get an easy game off any Tyrone team so we will be expecting a big test.”
AIB Club IFC semi-final
An Ghaeltacht (Kerry) v Moy Tír na nÓg (Tyrone)
Tomorrow: O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, 2pm
Referee: J Hickey, Carlow
TV: TG4 (live)
Bet: Ghaeltacht 1/4, Moy 7/2, Draw 9/1
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