Thursday 14 November 2019

An hour in the company of this great storyteller left everyone feeling better about the world

Páidí a man without pretence who could light up any room, writes Colm O'Rourke

Another great oak has tumbled in the Kerry forest with Páidí ó Sé taking the long sleep. If anybody or anything demonstrated in one person what pride of place meant then Páidí was that man. A product of West Kerry, of sea and mountain and rugged beauty, Páidí had a passion for Kerry and everything his county stood for.

The team he was on played the beautiful game at others' expense during the 1970s and '80s; he had enough gold medals that he would need a strong mule and a couple of saddlebags to transport them to the bank but he never changed, he was always the West Kerry rogue. If others wanted to portray him as less than sophisticated, then he left them in their ignorance; he hated pretence and had the common sense of land and water that does not surface on any third-level curriculum.

As a player, he minded his man and the house, he was not the flashy half-back who needed to be up scoring. His job was to make sure his man made no contribution and he carried it out time after time with military precision. With his collar up and a short back and sides, he looked as if he continually was in a state of intense motivation in those big games against Dublin. Occasionally he strayed over the edge in some games against the Dubs and Cork but it was never personal and he got away with a multitude of sins as he was impossible to dislike.

When Páidí turned to management he brought the same full-on style as he did to playing. Being in charge of Kerry was the for him the greatest honour in the world and if his methods at times seemed a little unorthodox, he brought an All-Ireland back to Kerry after 11 years without one. What he really did was to get players to show the same love – and it was love – for the jersey that he had. After that the football looked after itself.

He transferred the same motivation to Westmeath and it brought a Leinster title there but he probably always longed for another go at the Kerry job. No matter where he went, home and heart stayed in West Kerry.

An hour in Paídí ó Sé's company at any time left a person feeling better about the world. He told great stories of selection meetings where he wore everybody down, of encounters with Charlie Haughey, of his time in the Gardaí and a thousand other things. And they were never to make himself look better in any way, he just had a way of telling stories that made them amusing and everybody laughed a lot in his company.

With Tim Kennelly and John Egan already gone over the river, another great hero now joins them before his time. They were all great footballers on a really great team; they were also hard men on the pitch and sometimes a bit too hard on themselves off it. At least now Páidí can bring them up to date on what they have missed and they will hear it in his own style which will make them laugh a lot. Páidí was a great Irishman as well as a great Kerryman and will be sadly missed by farmers, fishermen and every other strata of society. Sincere sympathy to all the ó Sé family.

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