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
Yet nobody ever thought of him as anything less than committed. They just threw him the number five and kept their worries for other players.
Standards. He started off as a regular man-marking wing back but over the years he constantly set about improving himself.
We think of him now as an attacking force but in his first six seasons in a Kerry jersey, he only scored a grand total of 1-1. From 2004 onwards, he averaged four points a season and ends his career with 3-35 against his name.
The game changed and he changed with it.
Footballer of the year
He is one of only five defenders to have been named footballer of the year.
His haul of five All Stars is a record for a defender – one he shares with John O’Keeffe and his uncle Páidí. Not alone that but he was nominated for an All Star in 10 of his 16 seasons.
He was a fixed point of excellence throughout arguably Kerry’s second greatest era.
Defiance. He didn’t always colour strictly inside the lines, of course. There was always a certain amount of marching to the beat of his own drummer with the middle Ó Sé brother.
He picked up more suspensions than a player of his experience ought to have, especially late on in his career.
Yet nobody ever had him pegged as dangerous or dirty.
His red cards and retrospective bans were more commonly reckless rather than vindictive.
The signature image of his career remains his offering of the match ball to Stephen Cluxton after the final whistle had blown in the 2011 All-Ireland final.
He never had anything less than respect for his opponents. When it came to the authorities though, he could take or leave their interest.
Icon of the game
Ultimately, Tomás Ó Sé retires as he played. An icon of the game, the best wing back of his generation. Pick the best team of the past quarter-century and he’s there at number five. No quibbles, no whataboutery.
Oisín McConville had him for company plenty of afternoons, most memorably in the 2002 All-Ireland final. He sums him up with a simple verdict.
“He was the only defender I ever played against where I went out on to the pitch feeling that the onus was on me to mark him,” McConville said yesterday.
“He just had that much influence.”
He had it right to the last lap.