End of era as Kerry’s Marc Ó Sé retires from intercounty football

Long-standing family dynasty in Kingdom concludes with youngest of brothers calling time

Marc Ó Sé retires from Kerry with five All-Ireland titles and three league medals. Photograph: Don MacMonagle.

Marc Ó Sé retires from Kerry with five All-Ireland titles and three league medals. Photograph: Don MacMonagle.

 

Every great dynasty comes to an end, and in the modern or even ancient era of Gaelic football, none have come greater than the Ó Sés from West Kerry: one uncle, three nephews, and a combined total of 24 All-Irelands, 17 All Stars and 310 championship appearances.

That’s only the beginning of the numbers which have now come to an end with the retirement of Marc Ó Sé who, at 36 and with five All-Ireland titles to his name, has called time on his 16-year Kerry senior career.

Because it’s not just about his retirement but the retirement of that name too: next season will be the first since 1993 that no Ó Sé has featured on the Kerry team: that’s 23 seasons not out, until now. It’s unlikely one family will ever again repeat their level of success either.

Indeed Ó Sé retires not just with five All-Irelands but 10 Muster titles and three league titles and also the 2007 Footballer of the Year award.

“An attacking corner back long before it was en vogue,” reflected Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice, in what turned out to be a day-long scramble for the finest or most fitting tribute.

Ó Sé himself paid tribute to his late uncle, Páidí Ó Sé, as “a constant mentor throughout my career”, and that’s where the dynasty began: Páidí Ó Sé played 15 seasons with Kerry, making 53 championship appearances and winning eight All-Irelands, before his retirement in 1988. Later he served eight seasons as Kerry manager, winning two All-Irelands.

Darragh Ó Sé was the first of the nephews to emerge, towards the end of 1993, and by the time of his retirement, in early 2010, he’d won six All-Irelands and made a then record 81 championships appearances. Next was Tomás Ó Sé, who extended that record to 88 championship appearances, while winning five All-Irelands, before his retirement at the end of 2013.

Brother’s record

“But there’ll be players that will come on and break all those records in a few years, without a doubt,” he once said, of those records, although most people would clearly doubt that.

In announcing his retirement, speaking with former Kerry team-mate Dara Ó Cinnéide on An Saol ó Dheas on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, he singled out two special memories of that 16-year career.

“The quarter-final against Armagh in 2006. We had lost against Armagh in 2002, and it was very hard, because Darragh was captain and he had been playing really well that year . . . The ones you lose, you always remember. Then when we got another chance against Armagh in 2006, we had a chance for revenge maybe. I don’t like to use that word, but maybe that day there was a bit of revenge. Darragh was unbelievable that day.”

Then, the semi-final replay against Mayo in 2014: “The supporters were unbelievable. I wasn’t starting that day, and I was really upset about it. Éamonn (Fitzmaurice) called me and told me I wasn’t starting, and I got an awful land. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong at the time, but Éamonn’s point was that I wasn’t excelling. It was just the kick in the backside I needed.

“I had my mind made up that when I got my chance I would prove that he was wrong. Everything just worked out for me on the day. I was brought in after 20 minutes, because I think Shane Enright got a yellow card. I was really lucky, because if he hadn’t got the card then I mightn’t have been put on until the 65th or 70th minute maybe. I played well and we were in the final again. I really enjoyed that match.”

Even before losing to Dublin in this year’s semi-final, the Gaeltacht club man decided 2016 would be his last season.

Felt pressure

Charlie NelliganFergal

No pressure shown either.

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