Friday 19 January 2018

'No man took Kerry football as seriously as Páidí'

Getting advice from Paidi in 2002
Getting advice from Paidi in 2002

Tomás Ó Sé

People have this image of Páidí as a wild animal, a gregarious character burning the candle at both ends all the time. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

No man I ever met took Kerry football, or his preparation and training, as seriously as he did. And he carried that over into management when he took that on.

I've been coached by a lot of top-quality guys, and he left more of a mark on me than any manager in how to prepare myself for Kerry and in how important Kerry was. As a result I was a better player.

There was nobody like Páidí for speaking at half-time. First he'd calm us down. If we were losing, or if fellas were panicking a bit, he'd cool us down. Then he'd go into the middle of the room and, if there was a bollocking to give, he'd give it.

He was great for questioning a team. I never saw him so tuned in as in 2002 - the talks on the way to games, the talks in dressing-rooms. He kept challenging us as a team. That was the key.

He got nervous before games, I knew that. He kept it hidden, but we knew him too well.

The piseogs would come out then. One day we had to sit in a car for half an hour because he hadn't seen a black cat. I was raging, because I could have spent the half-hour doing stretches outside the car.

Another time, in the run-up to an All-Ireland, he was caught speeding by a guard, and he just took the ticket, no arguing. "I could have got out of that with a couple of tickets," he told me after, "but they're a couple of tickets I'll need for the game."

We won the All-Ireland that year, and the next time we made the final he was caught speeding again by another guard.

He was delighted, thrilled altogether, because the first time he got the speeding ticket we'd won that All-Ireland, so this was a great sign for him that we'd win it again. And he told the guard all about it, so much so that he eventually let him off, no ticket at all.

Páidí was easy to blame when things went wrong for Kerry. Too easy. Often we, the players, were at fault.

In 2003, when we met Tyrone, I don't think we were prepared for what happened. I don't think Tyrone had ever hit a team as hard as they did us that day, but I don't think we were prepared mentally. And that falls back on Páidí, though I would have expected us to react better on the field as a team.

Only since Páidí died would you realise that he lived and breathed football, and I don't know if he was ever able to let it go. It was his everything.

He was a rogue, and you couldn't believe a word out of him at times, particularly after a few pints. When he got the road from Kerry, for instance, he said, "I'll never manage again. Never." But, sure enough, six days later he was in a helicopter up to Westmeath, proud as punch with a suit and a smile.

I don't think his heart was in the Clare job when he went there, though. It always seemed to me that he was chasing that high he got from managing Kerry, but no other county would be the same.

That said, I think he actually was at peace before he died.

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