Vincent Hogan: Two-day interview revealed Páidí's overlooked depth
Published 22/12/2012 | 05:00
My first interview with Páidí ó Sé lasted longer than my first job. It was July of 1989 and he had just reluctantly called time on his Kerry career after requiring 42 stitches to tie an ear back into place following a club game in Dingle.
Páidí was as hard to hurt as a pier wall, but that injury finished him. He had been 16 years wearing the Kerry colours and the five weeks lost to recuperate just stole too much from his body.
Our interview was done in increments, continuing into a blurry second day. Local pride compelled Páidí to provide an extended tour of the West Kerry Gaeltacht and, when his mother Beatrice reached for the frying-pan the next morning, Páidí recognised my green gills as genuine, recommending a walk on Ventry strand instead.
I suspect you had to spend that kind of time with him to understand how caricature invariably sold Páidí short. Every story this week referenced the man's passion and how he could hear a football bounce two parishes away.
But there was a depth to ó Sé that, maybe, only history will fully recognise.
In Mick O'Dwyer's pomp, the popular lie became that Kerry were so good, you or I could coach them to an All-Ireland. Yet, the county went 11 years without the Sam Maguire before Páidí led them home again in 1997.
It seemed that someone so full of roguery couldn't possibly understand the cold, technical stuff of turning individuals into a team.
Páidí didn't carry clip-boards, books of Russian poetry or whatever it was that implied gravitas on the line. He just imparted faith.
That faith won a first Leinster crown for Westmeath too, yet Páidí was happy to let others do him down. As he put it in his autobiography: "It seems that, if you wear your heart on your sleeve, well ... you're a thick f****r!"
Rest assured, the throng that swamped Ventry last Tuesday spoke – as one – to the contrary.