Kerry radio legend Weeshie recalls O Sé's tactical ability
JUST a couple of days ago, Weeshie Fogarty was fingering through his post.
The radio presenter and former Kerry footballer recognised the handwriting on one of the envelopes immediately. The letter was from Páidí ó Sé, congratulating him on the release of his book.
"That was Páidí," Fogarty recalled yesterday. "People will know him from his rough and tough exterior and as a tremendous competitor on the football field. And we all know what a footballer he was.
"But behind that was a very caring and giving man that maybe many people didn't get to see. I invited some people to the book launch and Páidí was the first man in the door, there to show his support. He was a great friend and a great conversationalist.
"That was reflected every year when he launched his football tournament in Dublin. The people who turned up were a who's who of all walks of life.
"And that wasn't just because he was a tremendous footballer, it was because people warmed to him. He was charismatic, very charismatic, and people found it very hard to say 'no' to him."
The former inter-county goalkeeper's memories of ó Sé go back further than most. His first encounter with the youngster from Ventry came in the national park in Killarney.
"St Brendan's College were training there and Páidí was on their team. And I was doing some training of my own for my refereeing and there was a young lad there on his own, kicking the ball high into the sky and chasing it. It was Páidí. He was first out to training, long before anyone else and that's when I first became aware of him."
That signalled the start of a stellar football career that coincided with a golden age for Kerry football.
ó Sé's career stats speak for themselves and he established himself as one of Mick O'Dwyer's most trusted lieutenants as he built a football dynasty.
"People ask what the secret of Kerry football is. Like Paddy Bawn Brosnan, Mick O'Connell and others, Páidí was a legend in his own lifetime. There was a ruggedness and a determination to him that sustained Kerry football."
Even after his playing days ended, the lure of the Kerry cause brought him back to management before long.
There was considerable pressure involved in taking the Kerry job when ó Sé was installed. Kerry people were getting edgy and when he delivered Sam Maguire in 1997, an 11-year gap was bridged. "It was no surprise to me that when Kerry needed someone to bring them to an All-Ireland, it was Páidí who came up trumps," the broadcaster and GAA historian explained. "You have to ask yourself, how many other people could have delivered that All-Ireland?
"His teams, whether it be senior or U-21 or whatever, always played with a bit of style and verve. And he won the Sam Maguire in 1997 when it hadn't been in Kerry in 11 years.
"He won it again in 2000 and put Kerry back on top. And they played beautiful, long kicking football and it was great to watch. He was ahead of his time too. To my mind, he was the first Kerry 'manager' because most other people would have been the trainer of the Kerry team. He was the first man to bring someone in to train the team separately. He recognised his weaknesses and surrounded himself with good people."
According to the Killarney native, it will take Kerry a long time to come to terms with the loss of one of its most celebrated sons.
"The county is sad. I've been on the road a lot since. People are crying. I spoke to a woman who said she cried for an hour when she heard. She had never met Páidí, but she knew what he had done for Kerry and knew what he stood for. That's the effect he had on people.
"He's gone and followed in the footsteps of John Egan, Tim Kennelly and Liam Higgins but in their passing they have left a great legacy for others to follow.
"I would consider him a friend, a dear friend, and he's a loss to us all. I still have that letter and it's something I'll cherish forever. That was the Páidí I knew."