Stories flow thick and fast as Kerry bids farewell to noble warrior Páidí Ó Sé
“This crossroads has 23 senior All-Ireland medals to its name,” marvelled Danny Lynch, former public relations officer of the GAA and a neighbour’s child.
Lynch was among the large gathering outside the Séipéal Chaitlín. It was a bitterly cold winter’s day, but the footballing men stood stolidly for almost two hours, trying to catch some of the broadcast fitfully relayed out to the car park.
Many of the younger players waited outside without overcoats or gloves, seemingly impervious to the chill in the incense-heavy air.
On the steps of the altar in the small stone church, beside the Christmas crib, was a copy of Páidí’s autobiography and a CD of traditional Irish music, his beloved Kerry jersey, a pint glass and a pack of cards.
Perfectly packed for his trip.
Uilleann piper Seán Óg Potts and fiddler Paddy Glackin performed Seán Ó Riada’s Mass with the Cór Chúil Aodha and, later, Luke Kelly’s brother Jimmy performed a haunting rendition of Raglan Road. There were tears and applause for him, and for Sláine Ní Chathalláin, who sang The Boys of Barr na Sráide.
It was a very male gathering. Sportsmen, sports fans, politicians and quiet big men with beautiful Irish.
There was much talk of Páidí’s friendship with Charlie Haughey. Haughey’s sons Ciarán and Conor came down on Monday night, along with their sister Eimear Mulhearn, and they were among the first to arrive at the church for the midday Mass.
There was no sign of Bertie Ahern, who got an honourable mention from the altar, but there was a warm welcome for Brian Cowen. Of all the taoisigh Páidí befriended, it seems Cowen was his favourite.
Cowen was always going to come to Ventry this Christmas – the two had planned to meet over the festive season. But it happened, tragically, sooner than he expected.
Afterwards, he joined builder Tom Bailey and Seán Quinn jnr in a snug for a drink.
Micheál Martin, the current Fianna Fáil leader, paid his respects, while Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte skipped the Cabinet meeting to attend his old friend’s funeral.
And the stories came and came. The kids in the local club “would stand on their heads in the snow for Páidí”.
And the “Greats”. They were all there. Ogie Moran, Pat Spillane, Jack O’Shea, Jimmy Deenihan and the rest. Old Dublin foes, among them Anton O’Toole, Paddy Cullen, Gay O’Driscoll and Robbie Kelleher. Watching it all was Mick O’Dwyer, looking heavy of heart and weary.
Tom Ó Sé, the brother, brought some laughs. “He liked the craic, he was a rogue. Páidí was a great character and we’ll remember the yarns.”
The blackthorn was cut back along the road to the cemetery. The cortege made its way slowly past the pub and the general grocery. Then it passed over the mountain stream to the gates, where Páidí’s nephews shouldered the coffin to his final resting place. Under a watery sun, with the waves breaking on Ventry strand, Kerry buried its larger-than-life son.
The Christmas decorations remained up in the pub. The singing started at nightfall. It was the beginning of a long goodbye to the man who was known to one and all as “Páidí”.