Sunday 25 August 2019

From Riverdance to Croke Park: Dancing's loss is Kerry's gain

Jump Start: Tomás Ó Sé in his Riverdance clothing in Killarney. Photo: Valerie O Sullivan.
Jump Start: Tomás Ó Sé in his Riverdance clothing in Killarney. Photo: Valerie O Sullivan.
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Tomás ó Sé made quite the impact on his debut in Tuam last weekend, befitting of the famous name he carries.

Kerry were shipping water on his introduction as Galway launched a late smash-and-grab effort in their league clash on Sunday. Manager Peter Keane called for back-up and the cavalry delivered. ó Sé, a 70th-minute substitute, powered his way to a crucial point and set up another to finally see off Galway and maintain the Kingdom's perfect start to life under their new management.

It was ó Sé's first appearance for Kerry and the chance for the rest of the country to get a first look at another of the graduates from their five-in-a-row All-Ireland minor-winning sides.

A two-year minor, he was part of the last Kerry minor team to lose a game when they went down to Tyrone in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final but made amends a year later to kick-start their 'Drive for Five'.

There was more than a hint of over-carrying about his point in Galway but Kerry took the luck that came their way in both that decision and in ó Sé's choice to pursue a career in football rather than dancing.

Kerry have lost some of their brightest talent to the AFL but they long feared ó Sé would be lured away by a career in dancing, something he's been doing as long as he's been playing football.

Ó Sé in action for Kerry against Galway. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ó Sé in action for Kerry against Galway. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

For much of his teens, he was able to combine the both. In 2013, he was with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann on their Tour of North America. The following year he won an All-Ireland minor medal as well as a Hogan Cup crown with Pobascoil Chorca Dhuibhne but both those campaigns were pockmarked by his dancing commitments and saw him racing across the country and even the Irish Sea as he fulfilled his duties in both.

"During the summer I was playing in Croke Park in the All-Ireland quarter-final and moments after the whistle blew I had to throw off the football boots and throw on the dancing shows and run over to The Helix to dance in 'Take The Floor'," he said in 2013.

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"Last February when I was away touring England with Comhaltas, I had to leave the last show to fly home to play in the Munster Colleges final in Fitzgerald Stadium."


The 2014 All-Ireland celebrations, where Kerry paraded both the Sam Maguire and Tom Markham cups in Tralee, were notable for the dance-off between himself and senior player Donnchadh Walsh. But it wasn't long before the Dún Chaoin man was dancing for real when he teamed up with the Riverdance troupe.

The tour brought him around the world and he danced in places like Russia, France, China, Holland and others but with Riverdance's 21st birthday coming into view, he had a decision to make.

A football career was still an option but perhaps too much time away would have made a return to the top level impossible.

And so the 23-year-old opted to quit the show ahead of the 2017 season to concentrate on football.

"I was on tour in the UK and Germany until June and I was in Dublin for opening week but I'd prefer to be at home playing football.

"I would have been in Dublin the whole summer and I would have missed a lot of training. I had to quit the U-21s to go away with them in March and I don't really want to do that again.

"I've decided to put the dancing to the side to concentrate on the football," he revealed. "Dancing is a massive part of my life, it has given me amazing opportunities to travel, it is a phenomenal show and it has helped my footballing ability - but if I want to do well in football and potentially progress to the senior team at some stage - I have to sadly sacrifice the tours."

He recently helped An Ghaeltacht to a Munster Club IFC title and last weekend he finally got the chance to deliver for Kerry.

This weekend the Kingdom will look to make it five wins from five when they welcome a struggling Monaghan side to Killarney.

And after his impact last weekend, perhaps he can expect an encore this time around.

A traditional musician like his father Pádraig, the Raidió na Gaeltachta commentator, ó Sé plays the box and in the past has climbed Carrauntoohil for Concern Worldwide.

For now, though, it's all about football.

Irish Independent

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