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Sunday 20 April 2014

Former rivals pay tribute to the GAA's 'biggest diamond,' Páidí Ó Sé

It has become a massive YouTube hit but Dinny Allen insisted yesterday that the fallout from the left hook from Páidí Ó Sé that floored him in the 1975 Munster football final never lingered long enough to spoil their friendship.

In fact, the former Cork footballer, captain of their 1989 All-Ireland-winning team, insisted yesterday that if he was asked to name the dirtiest footballers he played against, Páidí wouldn't even be in the top 20.

"Páidí wasn't a dirty player at all. You wouldn't have to be looking for him out of the corner of your eye because you either got it up front or there was nothing," Allen recalled. "There was nothing devious in him.

"I know when people look at things like that (the 1975 clip) they wonder would they actually hate each other and that sort of thing. We had patched up within a fortnight. It was on 'Up for the Match' a few years ago, myself and Páidí were on and they showed it in front of us."

Allen had won a ball ahead of Ó Sé who tackled him hard, prompting a reactive elbow from the Cork man which caught Páidí flush.

For a split second Páidí paused before delivering a blow that would cause consternation in today's game.

Referee Brendan Cross from Limerick slipped as he came in to calm things down but already there was a look of regret on Páidí's face as Allen fell to the ground.

Cute

"He panicked after it. He caught me on the top of the head, it wasn't on the jaw. I felt that the referee was after catching me bringing back my elbow, so I was trying to be cute by throwing myself down.

"He had caught me on the head all right but I was trying to get away without my name being taken. He took both names but I'd say Páidí thought he was gone straight away when it happened.

"He tells a great story about that skirmish which I can't recall but who was I to spoil a great story from him!

"I got a point way over on the wing early on by the dressing-room and reputedly (according to Páidí) said to him, 'you'll be going off now soon, Páidí'.

"He claims to have replied, 'well if I'm going off you'll be coming off with me'. I think that it was his imagination but the way he told it, the story always sounded good."

Allen and Ó Sé were never in direct opposition enough to build up a sustained rivalry but they remained well acquainted in the years after their playing days ended.

"We were all together in Bishopstown on the night of John Egan's wake last April. He was wise-cracking as usual that night. It's hard to believe we're talking about him in such terms now."

For Paddy Cullen, Dublin's charismatic goalkeeper of the 1970s, the GAA may not have had a bigger figure from any era – he describes Ó Sé as the game's "biggest diamond".

"He was a one-off. If you take him as an overall package he was probably the GAA's biggest diamond because he was a great promotional guy for the game.

"Everywhere he appeared he epitomised the game. He was a Gaeilgeoir, almost a historian, nearly a politician. He knocked on every door. I don't think he could have achieved much more in his life.

"He was a wonderful character, funny, jovial, always out for the craic. When he came into a room, he illuminated it straight away. It's hard to believe that there are three of them gone (Páidí, Tim Kennelly and John Egan).

"He had great time for (David) Hickey. He used to say about when he'd hear his hooves coming that 'you'd be getting rid of the ball fairly quick'. The tackling was ferocious between them."

Cullen says there was an individual streak in everything Páidí did that set him apart.

"Even down to the haircut back in those days. You could not identify anyone else on the field like Páidí Ó Sé. He had a distinctive look, from the way he walked to his demeanour. That was in life as well as on the pitch.

"You could look at him walking down the street and you would know his gait."

Cullen believes Paídí's skill was sometimes overlooked at the expense of his character and courage.

"He could kick a ball over the bar. He could attack, he could solo. He was an all-rounder. He was a tough man. You need people like that to drive a team."

Páidí Ó Sé – the player and the manager

Playing Highlights

Kerry SF championship debut: 1974

All-Ireland SF medals: 8 (1975, '78, '79, '80, '81, '84, '85, '86)

Munster SF medals: 11 (1975, '76, '77, '78, '79, '80, '81, '82, '84, '85, '86)

NFL medals: 4 (1974, '77, '82, '84)

Railway Cup medals: 4 (1976, '78, '81, '82)

All Stars: 5 (1981, '82, '83, '84, '85)

Retired: 1988

Management Highlights

1995: Appointed Kerry senior manager

All-Ireland titles: 2 (1997, 2000)

Munster titles: 6: (1996, '97, '98, 2000, 2001, 2003)

NFL titles: 1 (1997)

2003 (October): Ended his management term with Kerry

2003 (October): Appointed Westmeath manager

Leinster titles: 1 (2004)

2005: Management term ended with Westmeath

2006: Appointed Clare manager

Titles: 0

2007: Management term with Clare ended.

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