Tomas OSe - A Class Act

October 8th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

It was a touch of real class as you would expect from a class act. Tomas o Se announced his retirement last Thursday, but not in a manner that many before him in Ireland announced their "hanging up of their boots". Tomas informed us of his retirement on his former team-mate Dara Ó Cinnéide's programme on 'Raidió na Gaeltachta', bringing to an end a fantastic 15-year career in the famous green and gold jersey of his county. Not for him a high profile appearance on national TV, radio, or one of the big national daily newspapers. Typical of the man he stayed with his own, remembered his own, speaking to his great friend and former club and county team mate. Kerry number one when playing or retiring. He and his family have been the constant heartbeat, the passion, the dedication the continuous driving never ending all consuming search for All Ireland glory. And it's always Kerry, always the people of Kerry, always the green and gold that was number one with Tomas o Se. As the fellow said, "where would it go from him"? He was born into this way of living, acting, thinking, behaving, and playing. His late father and uncle would not accept anything else. 

And now there is only Mark. Paudie, Dara, Tomas all gone from the great sporting arenas of Ireland. Fitzgerald Stadium, Croke Park, Pairc Ui Keeffe and far flung outposts in the four corners of Ireland, no more will we witness the displays of the greatest right half back the game has ever seen.  The family has been constant in our sporting lives since we first saw Paidi winning Corn Ui Mhuiri with St Brenan's College away back in 1972-73. God, that's over forty years ago. And now only Mark remains on the field of play. I find it completely impossible and unrealistic to write about Thomas without including the others.

One of the very last chapters to be written for my book published last year, My Beautiful Obsession=Chasing the Kerry Dream, dealt with the greatest fifteen Kerry footballers I had seen since 1955. I had burned the mid-night oil and agonized over many positions; the list of Kerry greats is vast. I came to the right half back position; it was automatic, no contest, and one name only for this spot. My decision only took as long as it takes to write down a name. Right half back wearing the number five jersey, Tomas o Se. Simple, easy, straightforward, clear cut. That was his spot, his alone; no wing back I had ever seen would outshine his displays for club and county. From here we had continually watched him in admiration solo up field in that distinctive beautiful balanced style, solo with the left leg, ball up to the right hand, knifing through defenses, a thing of beauty, and a joy to behold. Sheer class.

And now the most astonishing statistic of all. On thirty eight occasions, during the white heat of championship battle the man from the West finished his excursions to the opposition half with scores. There are inter county forwards who have retired and indeed some still playing and not scored 3-35. Yes this is the amazing tally notched up by Tomas. Was there ever a defender in the history of gaelic football to out score him? Not to my knowledge. Yes he was tempestuous at times, this goes with the intercounty territory but never once I have seen him commit a malicious foul, never once and I have been privileged to see him in practically all his games, league and championship through my work with Radio Kerry as match analysist. Never once have I seen him remonstrate or argue with referees even when he was shown the red card. Others could learn for this. Five All Irelands, nine Munster's, five All Stars, Footballer of the Year in 2009, a record eighty eight championship appearances. The list just copper fastens his entry to the Kerry hall of legends. Mick o Connell, Jack o Shea, Mickey Sheehy, Paddy Kennedy, Seamus Moynihan, Pat Spillane, Maurice Fitzgerald, Tomas o Se.  Jewels all, in the Kerry crown. His name sits effortlessly with this galaxy of stars.

I first saw Thomas in a Kerry senior jersey in a National League game away to Roscommon in November 1998. He went on to play for his beloved county ninety times in the league, scoring 3-35 in the process. So add up his league and championship games for Kerry, include what he has scored and you are left with a staggering statistic. West Kerry to the core. Hard, uncompromising, with a body build as if from bell metal. Just like all those greats from the West. Paddy Bawn Brosnan, Bill Casey, Paddy Kennedy, Tom Ash, Tom Gega o Connor, Bill Dillon, Tom Long and of course his own flesh and blood his uncle Paidi. We have been privilege to have seen him throughout his career. The greatest number five I have ever seen. But for me my everlasting memory of him will be his courtesy, politeness and lack of pretentious. To put it as simply as possible Thomas o Se had it all, both on and off the field. We will never see his like again.   

Fogra; The Legendary Casey Brothers by Jim Hudson with Jim Casey will be launched by Olympic legend Ronnie Delany in the Sneem Hotel on Friday October 18th. 8-00 PM. Guest speaker former Kerry Footballer Mick o Connell. You and your friends are invited to come along and share in what is one of the most eagerly awaited and long overdue sporting publications ever. This fascinating history was written in 1991 in Huston Texas by Jim Casey (RIP) but never reached the book shops.  A superb DVD of the family painstakingly produced by Christy Riordan C/R videos will also be launch on the night. Your presence would be your tribute to the greatest sporting family Kerry or Ireland have ever known.

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