Ó Sé's great achievements a fitting legacy
Páidí Ó Sé May 16th, 1955 - December 15th, 2012He was a 'rogue' and a warrior and one of the finest players to ever play for Kerry
It was Pat Spillane – Páidí Ó Sé’s oldest friend amongst the now legendary generation of Kerry players – who spontaneously coined the most resonant phrase: “He was,” said Spillane on RTÉ Radio One on Saturday as the shocking news settled on the country, “a rogue in the nicest possible sense of the word and a warrior”.
Nowhere in the country are the connotations of ‘rogue’ more positively nuanced than in Kerry. It was partly Páidí Ó Sé’s self-projection but it did a disservice to his seriousness as a football man.
He enjoyed one of the greatest playing careers in the game’s history, winding up with a joint-record eight All-Ireland senior medals but because of his team’s legend, it’s sometimes forgotten he was an outstanding talent as a youngster.
He won a fistful of schools medals and, on the county senior panel by the age of 18, he won three All-Ireland under-21 medals, playing in both attack and defence, and was well on the team by the time Mick O’Dwyer’s young side upset Dublin in 1975 and wrote the first chapter in football’s most fabled story.
Born in 1955 his background, in the west Kerry Gaeltacht, had its share of football. Although his father wasn’t a notable player, 1958 All Ireland medallist Tom Long was a cousin and brother, Tom, won a minor All-Ireland in 1963 and another brother, the late Mike, father of Darragh, Tomás and Marc, played junior for Kerry.
Amongst the plethora of stories and achievements two things stand out about his career: the peerless record for a defender of conceding just one point from play to a direct opponent and the extent to which he pushed himself in training.
His mentor, in all senses, Mick O’Dwyer always commended Ó Sé’s drive and determination in training sessions. Everything on the field was for keeps regardless of context.
For the process of what he called “getting yourself arranged for O’Dwyer” he would every New Year head over the hills from Ventry into Dunquin and Slea Head for nearly three hours of stamina running.
Former team-mates observed that with his fondness for wintering well, the punishing efforts to get “himself arranged” took a toll on Páidí over the years but during his time at the top of the game he was formidable.
For someone with his competitive drive and blazing intensity the end was never going to come easily but he allowed fear of failure to motivate him.
Intimations of the end hadn’t been far from his thoughts in the closing years: “One thing used go through my mind,” he once said. “Is this going to be the day a fella gets 2-6 off me, takes me on a tour of Croke Park? It helped me keep that extra bit ahead of the posse.”