Off The Ball: Tomás Ó Sé driven to succeed but journey often a tortuous one
We had the great Tomás Ó Sé in studio last night to discuss his new autobiography 'The White Heat'. It was another reminder that the god days never come easy, even for the very best in our national games.
His debut against Cork in 1998 was a disaster. He was cleaned out. Páidí substituted him at half-time.
At the start of the second half, a shout came from the crowd, 'You might as well stick on the mother as well, Páidí'. As Tomás remembers, his uncle turned to him as if to say, 'Look what you've landed us in here'. On the way home, the very young Ó Sé was told by fans that he'd been terrible. It hurt him. He never enjoyed the rest of his year.
But he was dogged. I'd never quite had the measure of Tomás' personality from afar. One always figured he had that Ó Sé mischief mixed in with fierce determination. His drives from Cork to training are illustrative of the latter. On that hour-long trip he would reflect on his efforts in the previous training session and work through things he needed to put right that evening.
He said last night, "I would be nervous going to training". If he had a bad session, he would be sick heading home to Cork, absolutely raging.
Then there was the 2006 All-Ireland final, after which he was miserable. Kerry beat Mayo, but Tomás didn't play well and therefore he could not enjoy it. Even at the function he was carrying a weight. His brother Darragh told him to cop on and enjoy an All-Ireland win; they don't come along too often. He did in the end, but it was an effort.
These attitudes to training and success are of course irrational and bereft of perspective, but perhaps necessary for 17 years with Kerry. They seem to be ever-present amongst our elite. All the greats who chat in studio about reaching heady heights inevitably seem to have tormented themselves most of the way.
Not surprisingly, Ó Sé was no exception. The other given is that he confesses to still miss it terribly.