Five-time All-Ireland winner Tomás Ó Sé retires at 35
2004 Footballer of the Year won five All-Stars and scored career total of 3-35 from wing-back
A youthful Tomás Ó Sé weighs up his options during his 1998 debut season in the green and gold of Kerry. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Inpho
Tomás Ó Sé on one of his trademark dashing sallies upfield for Kerry during the Munster SFC semi-final against Waterford last June. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Dublin’s Michael Darragh Macauley and Diarmuid Connolly try to halt Tomás Ó Sé making one of his trademark surges upfield from wing back. The great Kerry defender has announced his retirement from inter-county football. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
It’s a few years back now but the snapshot catches Tomás Ó Sé from all sides nonetheless.
Long since exiled in Cork, he took a notion one winter to ramble down to Nemo Rangers and ask if anyone minded him doing a bit of running a few days a week.
No problem, they said. Away with you.
One dog-dirty afternoon a few weeks later he was banging out laps on the main pitch when a car horn started honking from the far side of the fence.
The bould Tomás kept his head down and trudged away, letting on he was oblivious to the racket. Yet he knew well what the gripe was.
The rain was ceaseless and had been for much of the day and the fine Nemo pitch could probably do without someone tramping laps around the outside of it.
While he was by no means indifferent to such concerns, Ó Sé took the view that if the fella was so worried about his pitch, he could step out of his car and come join him in the rain.
He might even need to muddy up his shoes a bit.
“Yer man was telling me to f*** off to the other field,” he remembered later. “And I said I’d have some fun. You need that sometimes.”
As he retires from inter-county football after 16 seasons of gracing it, the bare stats of Tomás Ó Sé’s career tell only a portion of the story.
The five All-Irelands, nine Munsters, the five All Stars, the Footballer of the Year award in 2009, the record 88 championship appearances – jewels all, strung on a necklace as pleasing to the eye as that of anyone who’s played the game.
Yet that image of him jogging away while some club grandee toots his annoyance from the car park probably contains within it just as much of what Ó Sé will be remembered for.
Devotion. He played for Kerry every season from 1998 onwards. He passed his brother Darragh’s appearance record in the summer of 2012 and kept plugging on another year when his friend and former half-back partner Eamonn Fitzmaurice took over.
Even though he hasn’t lived in Kerry since 2000, you wouldn’t say he ever left it. He always said that living in Cork would extend his career by a year or two, just because it meant summers spent away from the white noise around Kerry.