Stories flow thick and fast as Kerry bids farewell to noble warrior Páidí Ó Sé
They carried him down and laid him to rest at the foot of Mount Eagle, on the edge of his home village beside the Atlantic sea.
Back on the outside again, near the corner, in the green and gold. Number five, of course. Páidí Ó Sé, forever now on the wing.
“May the Ventry sod rest lightly on this noble warrior.”
After a day of many words – never scarce in the west Kerry Gaeltacht – those final ones lingered in the little graveyard. The Ó Sé family, heartbroken, stood together for their final public farewell to Páidí. The crowd held back to give them their space.
Pádraig Óg Ó Sé approached the mound beside the open grave, a shovel in his hand. Slowly, he began to dig and lift, the sandy soil hitting his father’s coffin and the Kerry jersey draped carefully over it.
Then the footballing men moved in. Some wore the red and white armband of An Ghaeltacht – Páidí’s club, and some wore the green and gold armband of the county team.
They took it in turns to heft the shovels, silently going about their work until the jersey vanished from view and the hole was filled. It didn’t take them long.
As the light began to fade, they returned along the road to Ventry, leaving the silence behind them. A huge crowd piled into Páidí’s pub at the Ard a Bhóthair crossroads. Pints were poured and big pots of tea produced and the talk started again, taking up where the two-day wake left off.
Flow of stories
There were hot dinners and sandwiches for the mourners, but there was nothing very mournful about the scene as the stories started to flow – one yarn about Páidí more outrageous than the other.
That’s because there was a lot more to Páidí than football. Speaker after speaker at his funeral Mass tried to explain the essence of this impish dynamo.
“He was a hero . . . a leader . . . an adviser and a friend to many people in his life,” said chief concelebrant Fr Kieran O’Brien, trying to capture a sense of one of Ireland’s most loved sportsmen.
On and off the field, from “his riveting talks to his funny stories, he lived a life full of energy. He didn’t just belong to Ventry, he belonged to the country. He had time for everyone, and was passionate and understanding.”
And never let it be said in this GAA bastion: “He was the last wall of defence from those who wanted to steal Sam from the Kingdom.”
This time last week, the eight-times All-Ireland medal winner had been busy planning his annual football tournament for next year. He had big ideas for it and was going to make it one of west Kerry’s major contributions to the Gathering. His revamped website went live to publicise it. A few days later, aged 57, he was dead.
At his funeral, there was still a sense of disbelief in the air.
Fr O’Brien – an old handball friend – spoke of the shock felt all over the country when news of Páidí’s sudden death was announced. “Like a stone thrown in a pond, the sorrow spread.”
Páidí’s wife, Máire, and children Neasa, Siún and Pádraig Óg sat in the front row with his brother Tom, along with nephews Darragh, Marc, Tomás, the latest generation of football stars from Ard a Bhóthair .