An abiding memory of great warmth and friendship

Tue, Dec 18, 2012, 00:00

Páidí Ó Sé was a fantastic athlete and a terrific human being on top of that

David Hickey was a member of the Dublin team of the 1970s and played on Páidí Ó Sé in a number of All-Ireland finals. They became enduring friends off the field.

He was also a selector with Pat Gilroy’s Dublin side, which won the 2011 All-Ireland and beat Kerry in the final for the first time since he was a player.

John McCarthy called me on Saturday morning to tell me that Páidí had passed on. Devastating news: I was rocked and you could hear John’s voice breaking. We were both very fond of this fella, and the abiding memory is of great warmth and friendship.

When we scooted into an All-Ireland final in 1975, I had never heard of Páidí Ó Sé.

That was supposed to be a handy All-Ireland for us because they had a very young team. I had a cousin, Pat O’Byrne from Limerick, who rang to tell me: “You’re playing on a hot bit of stuff, kiddo. This guy’s a great player.” He gave me a roasting that day.

Páidí would shake hands with you at the start of a match and that was his demeanour for the rest of the game.


I never once had my jersey pulled. I never once got a clip off the ball. He never stood on my feet or anything like that. Absolutely straightforward and if you got between him and the ball, that was your problem but there was never, ever anything underhand about Páidí Ó Sé.

The main problem within GAA now in my opinion is all of this imported stuff from soccer – the diving, taunting and the psychological bulls**t that goes on.

Páidí Ó Sé was at the absolute opposite end of that spectrum. He had a supreme belief in himself, which was usually justified, and if he couldn’t win the ball fair and square – within broad parameters! – he’d feel he was letting himself down.

I feel the clips shown on TV the other night of him getting stuck into me were a distortion. That wasn’t him. It was in the heat of the game and he was unlucky to be sent off, and I probably made a meal of it to be honest.

I think the great things he did in football are what need to be remembered and I think they are what is remembered.

I couldn’t say that it was a pleasure to play against him because they weren’t always my finest hours but I have nothing but the highest respect for him as player.

I would say the same about him as a human being because when I became sick in 2006 he came up to see me and made huge efforts to support me.

He was an old-style Gaelic footballer, a fantastic athlete and a generous, warm person on top of that. He was one of the Kerry fellas who always came over and talked to us.

John McCarthy was in the Garda with him at that stage and they had a fairly strong relationship. We slowly got to know him well over the years between going down to Ventry and him coming up to Dublin.

The Dublin team trained down there this August for a weekend and we asked him could he do a dinner for us on Sunday evening – at one o’clock and for 65 people. He didn’t bat an eyelid and put on a great, great night for us.

I think every Kerry fella is interested in some way in managing the Kerry team. It’s a great accolade. I wasn’t surprised at him doing that and neither was I surprised at his success.

Generally speaking I think football management is about a passionate vision of what you want to do and this was someone who could definitely get that across to people. I could see 30 guys rowing in behind him and having total confidence in him.

Widely knowledgeable

He was also a literary guy. You could have very good conversations with Páidí. He was a well-read and widely knowledgeable on public affairs. He wasn’t just a footballer, as his appointment to the board of Bórd Fáilte showed.

His life was very much Kerry and football, and the two of them are so intertwined I’d say he was missing the involvement.

Some of the stuff at the end – the “animals” comment – was taken totally out of context and I think some people got mileage out of it totally disingenuously. It was unfair and certainly didn’t reflect his feelings about Kerry. He took immense pride in his nephews playing for the county. They are chips off the old block – very athletic. People forget how good an athlete Páidí was.

I had great time for him. Whenever he was in Dublin there would be a phone call and I’d be into town to see him.

I loved meeting him and would like to offer my sympathies to Máire, Neasa, Siún and Pádraig; it will be a huge hole in their lives.

You could always drop down to see him or call over to his mother’s shop and he always had great time for you.

We didn’t meet often enough and that is my regret now.

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