In an exclusive extract from his new autobiography, Marty Morrissey looks back at the furore in the days after Kerry manager’s infamous outburst and how he helped his old friend ride out the crisis
In early January 2003, the Sunday Independent published an interview with the then Kerry football manager and GAA legend Páidí Ó Sé in which Ó Sé referred to the Kerry supporters as “the roughest type of f***ing animals you could ever deal with”.
A huge outcry ensued, with acres of column inches and plenty of airtime given over to the controversy. In this exclusive extract from his new autobiography, Marty Morrissey – a longtime friend of Paidi’s – recalls how he ran into the Kerry team on holidays in Cape Town in the days after the interview and how he helped Ó Sé deal with the crisis:
Back in January 2003, one of the first things I did when I arrived after the long flight from Heathrow, was go for a stroll in the Victoria & Alfred shopping centre on Victoria Wharf. As I was walking along, I saw a crowd of familiar-looking lads coming towards me. It was the Kerry footballers, who by complete coincidence had come to Cape Town on holidays. Among them was Páidí’s great friend Mike McCarthy, better known as Mike Larkin because of a family connection with Larkin’s bakery.
“Páidí is very bad, Marty,” he told me. “Will you talk to him?”
“I will, of course,” I said, and told him that I was staying next door in the Radisson Blu. “Tell Páidí to call me in the morning, but leave it after eleven. I’m on holidays!”
When the phone went off at 8.30 next morning, waking me from a deep sleep, I nearly fell out of bed with the shock. I fumbled for the receiver and with eyes still closed, I brought it to my ear.
“Marty? Is that you? Am I f**ked?” It was Páidí.
“Well,” I cleared my throat. “You are in a bit of a storm...”
“Will you come up to me?” he asked. “I need your help on this one, boy.”
He told me that himself and the Kerry team were staying in the Cullinan Hotel ‘up the road’, and to come up as soon as I could.
So, after breakfast I made my way to the hotel and asked at the reception desk to be put through to Mr Ó Sé’s room. I was told that he was expecting me, so I took the lift to the sixth floor, found his room and knocked.
That familiar Kerry voice sang out: “Coming Marty, coming...”
The door swung open and there was Páidí. He was stark naked. Not a stitch.
“Come in,” he said, “and close the door.”
All I could see as he walked away were two bare cheeks of an arse that wobbled back and forth as he made his way towards the table and chairs in one corner of the room.
I closed the door as he sat down and began rubbing his tummy – something I had seen him do so many times before.
Then, still naked, he asked the same question he had asked on the phone an hour earlier.
“Am I f**ked?”
“I don’t honestly think you are,” I told him. “This is a storm that will pass. It’s January. There’s nothing on except McGrath and O’Byrne cup games. It will pass, I promise you. I understood what you were trying to say, it’s just on paper it looks a bit harsh.”
“But Jaysus, Marty, I meant it as a compliment. The Kerry people demand results. Nothing but Sam Maguire every year or every second year will keep them happy. That’s what I meant… They ARE f***ing animals.”
“Páidí,” I said, “maybe you shouldn’t use that phrase any more.”
He nodded. “Probably not, no.”
I told him it would probably all be over by the time he got home, and that he could apologise then.
“Will the media be waiting for me at Farranfore Airport?” he asked.
I thought they might be, but advised him to just apologise and let the whole thing die.
“Marty!” He sat up straight, as if he’d been struck by a lightning bolt. “I want you to do a piece with me. I need to be on the Six One News tonight back home. I need to kill this.”
I laughed. “Páidí, we’re in South Africa, not South Kerry. I’m on holidays. It’s my first day here and I don’t have a cameraman.”
But he had already made up his mind that I could save the day.
“Marty boy, we are great friends and you have always been a lucky omen for me, so organise it. Call Dublin. I need this to be done. I’m getting dressed.”
And off he went into his bedroom while I picked up the phone and started making calls.
Tony O’Donoghue was the TV sports news editor at the time. His immediate response was extremely positive. Tony got in contact with Ed Mulhall, who was then head of news, and a brilliant one at that, and he too was delighted that we were about to have an exclusive that evening on the Six One News.
I told Páidí that we would only get one shot at this and that he needed to prepare for the questions I was going to ask. I gave him an outline of what I had in mind, emphasising that we were not going to get any more than two minutes on the news, so he needed to be precise. At this, Páidí jumped up and asked me for my phone.
“I must talk to the boss,” he said. He went off, dialling a number, then returned a few minutes later saying that he couldn’t get the boss. I assumed he was talking about his wife, Máire. We turned again to the job at hand and he started making notes.
After 20 minutes, he reversed his chair suddenly, making a loud grating noise on the tiled floor.
“Give me your phone again.”
Ten minutes elapsed before he returned, saying, “The boss says to go ahead with the interview.”
This was a relief, because RTÉ was expecting the interview and we’d already booked a cameraman and editing time in a Cape Town TV studio.
I had to ask. “I assume it’s Máire you’re talking about,” I said, referring to Páidí’s wife. “It’s nice to see that you think so highly of her that you call her ‘the boss.”
“Máire is not the boss,” he barked, almost angrily. “There’s only one boss in Ireland, Marty boy.”
“Who’s that?” He cocked his head, just like he used to do back in his playing days when he was lining up to take a fifty.
"Charles J Haughey,” he said.
“Are you telling me you just rang the former Taoiseach to ask him if you should do this interview with me?”
“I sure did, and Charlie told me I should do this f*king thing. He thinks you’re the right man in the right place, so come on, let’s do it, Marty!”
It’s Marty by Marty Morrissey is published by Sandycove and is available now in book shops and online. Marty will be signing copies at Easons, Cork, Mahon Point Shopping Centre at 3pm on Sunday, October 31