Páidí was a great manager
YELLOW Bainisteoir's tshort. Beige trousers. Stalking up and down the sideline. Urging his team on. Occasionally turning to the crowd, fists pumped, riling the crowd to even greater frenzy. This was the Páidí Ó Sé I remember. The manager and not the player. There are great stories of Páidí the player, great video footage of his great battles, his very many triumphs, footage of his famous speech in 1985, but that was the Páidí of a different era.
To us he was the messiah. The man who ended the famine. It was one thing growing up in a GAA mad county and in a GAA mad family being told that Kerry are the kings, the stylists, the aristrocrats, it was quite another to experience it for yourself. Páidí was the man who made that happen and for that we'll be forever grateful. Memories of Stephen Stack and Liam Flaherty, of Liam Hassett, of Mike Frank and memories of Maurice Fitz tormenting Mayo. Those were the memories Páidí gave us.
He put the pieces in place. He rebuilt the confidence of players coming off the back of a decade of defeats and led us to the promised land. A few days after that famous victory he visited one of his alma matters, St Michael's College in Listowel, with a scatter of players in tow and cannister under his oxter. It was then that the thought occured to me (a First Year at the time): so this is what it means to hail from the Kingdom.
Victory in '97 was Páidí's greatest achievement as a manager, but it wasn't his greatest victory. That came in 2000, the last of the straight knock-out championships and, boy, did Kerry live on their nerves that year. Two great games with Armagh in the semi-finals. Another two great games against Galway in the All Ireland final. The football was pure. The intent clear: score more than the opposition.
Páidí was a great defender, rugged, imposing, miserly, but his football teams were notable for their offensive flair. That 2000 team was very stylish. The team of 2002 su r - passed even that and possib ly any other Gaelic football team that came before or since. Defeat to Cork in the Munster semi-final replay played in the shadow of the funeral of his brother Micheál (father to Darragh, Tomás and Marc), was followed by a memorable summer of football.
It was Kerry's first experience of the backdoor. A Qualifier with Wicklow in Portlaoise was a portent of things to come. Kerry scored 5-15 that day. They scored 2-15 against Fermanagh, 2-10 against Micko's Kildare, 2-17 against Galway and 3-19 against Cork in the Munster old firm's first Croke Park championship encounter. Despite a scintillating first half against Armagh the All Ireland was lost.
It was the first of three major disappointments that ended Páidí's reign as Kerry boss – the 2001 humiliation by Meath and the 2003 defeat by Mickey Harte's Tyrone. Other men would have walked away. Not Páidí. He loved the Kingdom too much. Loved football too much. He knew he had more to offer. It was to Weatmeath he offered it. Leading them to their first ever Leinster title. Yes Páidí was a great manager. So while we remember the player, the character, the family man, the rogue, let us also remember the manager.