'Kerry was Kerry and Páidí was Kerry . . . I'm not the first or last to say it, but he really was unique'
Manager Páidí Ó Sé congratulates Darragh Ó Sé after Kerry defeated Cork in the 2002 All-Ireland semi-final. Kerry subsequently were beaten by Armagh in the final. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The remains of the Kerry legend are carried by his son Pádraig Óg, and nephews Fergal, Tomás, Darragh and Marc at the funeral in Ventry, Co Kerry, in December last year. Photograph: Inpho
GAELIC GAMES:The 24th annual Paídí Ó Sé Comórtas Peile takes place in Ventry next weekend. The man behind the festival was a larger-than-life figure with an unwavering self-belief and roguish humour – his absence will be keenly felt, writes DARRAGH O'SE
We’re all down in Ventry next weekend – the one weekend in the year that Páidí enjoyed above all others. The tournament was his own little project, and it turned into a big annual party, but there will be an empty chair this year, as there will be every year from now on.
It’s nine weeks since he died. Of course I miss him. What I miss most are the phone calls. I called him P Sé. With me living in Tralee and him living back west, we mightn’t meet up face to face more than a few times a month. But we’d talk on the phone three or four times a week, and when we did, it was always the lightest part of my day.
If I heard a story about a fella or saw something on the news that there might be a bit of messing in, I’d wait until I was in the car and I’d say, “right, I’ll give P Sé a call about that now and see what he makes of it”. It was always a treat I would set aside a bit of time for. It’s only since he died that I realise I took those phone calls for granted.
Paudie Lynch was his best friend. I ran into him one of the days there and we were talking for a while before he said: “You know, the one thing I miss is giving him a ring and listening to him go on the way he went on.” And there was me thinking I was special!
When it came to football, nobody had a bigger role in shaping me as a player. I went from being a minor to being an under-21 to being in the Kerry senior team all within the space of three months. Páidí was over West Kerry and the county under-21s at the time, so he was there each step of the way with me.
And though he was great fun, he took the game so seriously. He hammered into me some of the things that I tried to take with me for the rest of my career.
He was adamant about not getting into any verbals with your opponent. Not so much out of some big, high-minded motivation for sportsmanship and respect, more that an air of mystery was a great thing to have. If you get involved in a slagging match on the field, you’re giving up ground. You’re letting them pierce the skin.
Far better for them to be wondering what this madman from west Kerry has going on in his head.
Stand up for yourself if there’s a bit of pucking going on, but don’t ever open your mouth. Don’t ever let your guard down or give them an insight into what you’re thinking.
The way he would have seen it, getting involved would have been showing weakness. And he had no time for that. He’d regularly tell you not to go down unless you were really properly hurt. “Don’t give them the satisfaction; don’t let them know they hurt you.”
He saw it as a cop out, as giving them ammunition they didn’t need to have. He drilled that into all of us. I remember one time playing Cork in Killarney in 1998 when Stephen O’Brien came out and caught Maurice Fitzgerald a sweet one and winded him. Maurice got his free and hopped up off the ground, but straight away he looked over at me standing beside him.
Now, the year before in the All-Ireland final, I took a quick free at one stage and Maurice ate the head off me because the way he was playing that day he knew he would have stuck it over the bar. This was a far easier kick and yet Maurice just threw me the ball. He saw the quizzical look on my face and said out of the side of his mouth, “Kick that free there, I can hardly stand up.”
No way would he let the Cork lads see that he’d been hurt.
That was pure Páidí.
He saw playing in black and white terms. Do your job, don’t mind the other crowd. If they’re hopping off you, pulling out of you, that means they’re not focused. That means they’re showing weakness. Don’t do the same. Don’t showboat either. If you get a goal or score a big point, don’t be waving to the crowd. You’re only doing what you’re supposed to – it shouldn’t impact on you high up or low down. Go back and mark your man.
That’s why he loved the German soccer team. He often said he wanted Kerry to play with the flair of the All Blacks and the hardness of the Germans. He was always bringing them up in team talks.
“Look at the Germans, lads,” he’d say. “They’re there every year. No showboating, no messing. They always get to the final or thereabouts. They’re just a machine, lads, a well-oiled machine.”
Love of Kerry
Kerry football was the one thing in life Páidí never joked about.