Thursday 14 December 2017

PO, our fearless, swashbuckling warrior who became an icon

He had the heart of a lion. He approached football in deadly earnest, but he didn't take himself too seriously

THE news of the sudden passing of my great friend Paidi O Se came to me on Saturday like a bolt from the blue. Shock, dismay and disbelief do not even come close to putting such a loss into context.

One feels so inadequate when trying to come to terms with such a devastating blow. The calls and texts have been flooding in since as people pay tribute to PO, or Bog as he was affectionately known to his teammates.

Paidi gave his heart and soul to Kerry football. He was as hard as nails and as tenacious as the limpets that cling to the west Kerry shoreline. There was no quarter asked or given, and PO certainly took no prisoners. But he was a very fair player.

He never tried to provoke anyone or get someone sent off, never tried to win a free he was not entitled to. And as for lying down feigning an injury, forget it.

Referees never had an issue with his aggressive style, but there was one occasion when he nearly found himself in hot water. In his first Munster final, a well-known Cork footballer strolled up to him after kicking two early points and said to Paidi: "I suppose they'll take you off soon?"

That Corkman got a left hook for his trouble. Fortunately, the referee did nothing – for whatever reason, we'll never know.

He absolutely relished battles with the Rebels and loved nothing more than beating them. He was never flavour of the month with the Cork supporters, and the feeling was mutual. This came out when he made the prized comment about the Cork fans and how "they would stick a red flag up your a**e when they're winning".

Before another game with the old enemy, he hopped the ball with such ferocity that it bounced up and smashed the fluorescent tube in the dressing room in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

He would prance half-naked around the changing area before matches, working on what we now would call visualisation and imagery and it would drive us all mad. But we knew that bit of madness was a great thing to have on our side.

On the field he'd the heart of a lion and no regard for his own safety. It was summed up when he launched himself on the boot of an Offaly forward to deny a certain goal in 1981 to clinch the four-in-a-row.

He was an icon of Kerry football, and he will stand the test of time when people sit down to remember the greats of the game.

He didn't see himself as a stopper or just a spoiler, but as a pure footballer. He played with a swashbuckling style patented by the great west Kerry wing backs of the past such as Bill Dillon, Sean Murphy and Michael O Se.

But he was much more than a footballer.

PO had an amazing sense of fun and was a larger than life character. He saw humour in the most bizarre situations, and that's what set him apart.

While he approached football in deadly earnest, he didn't take himself too seriously.

He told us stories about going for a kickaround with Liam Brady while the latter was on holiday in west Kerry, and how Brady slotted five successive 45s over the black spot without any run-up. About Tom Cruise dancing on the counter in his pub in Ventry, out of his mind on drink. And about singing An Puc ar Buille with Dolly Parton.

When I doubted that last story, he went and rang Dolly's direct line, which shut me up fairly quick.

We were on our team trip to Melbourne when Paidi presented me with a portable TV for my birthday. A few hours later I discovered it was actually the property of the hotel we were staying in.

HIS closest friend on the team was Paudi Lynch, but Ogie Moran, Sean Walsh and myself were delighted to be included in PO's rat pack. He would regale us with his ideas, thoughts and schemes that we referred to as his black magic.

Paidi will take his place now alongside John Egan and Timmy Kennelly as soldiers of our Kerry team who have been taken from us too early. One thing is for sure, there won't be a shortage of entertainment if those three get together.

For now, though, my thoughts are with Maire, Neassa, Suin and Padraig Og as well as the extended O Se family.

Goodbye PO, and thank you for the memories of a lifetime. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

Irish Independent

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