Páidí Ó Sé - an extraordinary football life
For a man who won so much respect and honours on the field, and won so many admirers off it, there is no easy surmising the football life and career of Paidí Ó Sé, only the extraordinary lengths to which he took it.
His sudden death, aged just 57, has sent shockwaves through the GAA world, and initiated a flow of tributes that can only begin to capture his unique attributes, both as a player and manager.
Ó Sé won eight senior All-Ireland football medals with Kerry between 1975 and 1986, making 53 championship appearances, and completed a rare double of also managing his native Kerry to senior All-Ireland titles, in 1997 and 2000.
On top of that he won 11 Munster football titles, four National League titles, four Railway Cups, five All Stars, and two county senior championships – and as manager also won six Munster titles with Kerry, and a National League, plus two Munster under-21 Championship victories, before famously guiding Westmeath to their first ever Leinster football championship title in 2004, in his first season in charge with the county.
His also spent one season in charge of Clare, although that didn’t reach such illustrious heights.
Indeed there were some lean years with Kerry too, not least after 1986, when he won his last senior title with Kerry, retiring a year later. The Kingdom didn’t win again until Ó Sé was in charge, in 1997, which is why he always rated that victory as the among the most cherished of the lot.
Born in 1955, in the Gaeltacht area of Ventry, Ó Sé quickly displayed his football talents in school, winning four consecutive Kerry senior colleges’ titles from 1971, although his first success with Kerry came at under-21 level, when in 1973 he won the first of three All-Ireland titles in the grade.
He made his senior debut in the league in 1974, winning his first senior title, but it was the following year, under newly appointed Kerry manager Mick O’Dwyer, that the true legend was born, as Ó Sé won his first senior Munster title, dethroning Cork as provincial champions in the process, before defeating Dublin in the All-Ireland final.
Kerry’s amazing dominance of that era was famously undone in 1982, when Offaly denied them the five in a row, yet Ó Sé bounced back in 1984, the GAA’s centenary year, as Kerry beat Dublin, and put three titles back to back. The 1986 win gave Ó Sé his record-equalling eighth football All-Ireland medal, which he shares with fellow Kerry legends Pat Spillane, Ger Power, Ogie Moran and Mikey Sheehy.
Part of Ó Sé’s own legendary status is that he only conceded one direct point to his opponent in 10 All-Ireland final appearances. However he did go into decline in 1987, and retired shortly afterwards.
For many years he concentrated on his pub business in Ventry, before beginning his second coming, this time as Kerry manager, firstly at under-21 level. In late 1995 he was finally given the senior job, and after just two seasons in charge, delivered the long-awaited All-Ireland title in 1997, on a day when Maurice Fitzgerald led the way on the field.
Kerry won back the title in 2000, beating Galway in a replay, but things became less comfortable for Ó Sé when they lost the 2002 final to Armagh, before the infamous 2003 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tyrone, which ended his reign as manager.
One week after failing to secure another year in charge, however, Ó Sé was unveiled as the new manager of Westmeath, and against all the odds, took them to a Leinster title in 2004, before losing to Derry in the All-Ireland quarter-final. He left that position in 2005, and took charge of Clare in 2006, but by then his best days where behind him, as both player and manager, but days that will never be forgotton.
Paidí Ó Sé –
As Kerry footballer:
All Ireland Senior Championships:8 – 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986.
Munster Senior Championship:11 - 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986.
National League:4 – 1974, 1977, 1982, 1984.
Railway Cup:4 – 1976, 1978, 1981, 1982.
All Stars:5 – 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985.
County Senior Championship:2 - 1984, 1985.
As Kerry manager –
All Ireland Senior Championship: 2 – 1997, 2000
Munster Senior Championship:6 – 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003
All Ireland U21 Championship:1 – 1995
Munster U21 Championship:2 – 1993, 1995
National League:1 –1997
As Westmeath manager –
Leinster Senior Championship:1 – 2004