Paidi - A Big Life

November 19th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

It was one of those unique, unforgettable and very special Kerry football evenings in The Ballsbridge Hotel Dublin last Tuesday week when the Official Biography, Paidi - A Big Life, was launched by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen who had been a close friend of Paidí and a regular visitor to Ventry over the years. Family and friends came from far and wide. Stories, reminiscences, and cherished memories were told and retold long into the night. I simply had to be at "Paidi's Launch". On the 18th November last year exactly twelve months last Monday a beautifully hand written two page letter was delivered by our postman. I had launched my own book of memoirs one week previously and Paidi had honored me with his presence. In that letter he wrote; "Weeshie, Joan and family, it is my honest opinion that actually football is a very secondary factor in the book-for me what jumps out is honesty, simplicity, and above all sincerity. However for all of these very great characteristics to surface football was the vehicle. My attendance at the launch in the Gleneagle last Friday was driven by these three factors underlined above".

These few words from that cherished two page letter sums up for me the man I knew and respected most of all. Far from the maddening crowds, away from the glare of the media, that all action bustling life full of wonderful roguery and never ending love for his beloved Kerry. Sitting down at home in the peace and quite of Ard an Bhothair, putting pen to paper and taking time to write to me. He need not have done it and I would have respected and admired him as much as ever, but he did. It was, you might well say a small little gesture but to me it was an enriching experience and having seen him play in nearly every important game of his magnificent career I will always treasure this simply honest gesture more than any other Paidi memory.   

The usual suspects had gathered in Paid Quinn's pub in the center of Ventry village on the night of December 14th 2012. They were playing cards. Someone would go home with a hamper. Paidi was late. His brother Tom was there with Micheal o Se and Muiris Fenton. "Where is he", someone asked. "Last I heard was Sligo" said Michael. And he duly arrived, a little tired but with merriment in his eyes. He was home and that was where he was happiest. He had visited Limerick, Galway, Mayo and Sligo. In previous months his travels had taken him all over Ireland and abroad, to Spain and the Netherlands.

All the time he was meeting with GAA clubs and encouraging their participation in his Comortas Peile.

He told his friends that night that someone had contacted him about a team coming from Outer Mongolia. "Them's the boys for Ard an Bhothair" he laughed. On the morning of December 15th Paidi carried out a few chores around the pub. He felt the effects of his travels of the previous days. He was tired and decided to go back to the house for a rest. He slept.

It is late summer and the suns rays have the colors dancing through the water as the waves roll gently onto Ventry beach. The roads around Slea head are busy. Bus drivers edge their way around the sharp bends as their cargo gaze with wonder at their surroundings. Mount Eagle looms large over the scene, resplendent and majestic, protecting the burial ground of Reil Naomh Caitliona where the citizens of this corner of West Kerry are laid to rest. It is a stunning vista that has inspired poets, artists, musicians and seanchai. Paidi lies there now. They laid him to rest in great splendor. They came from everywhere. Former team mates and opponents, and politicians from all parties. The Dubs came en mass and shed tears of sorrow and joy. They came from the thirty two counties. Famous and not famous. And there were musicians, and singers, dancers and song writers, journalists and businessmen, lords and ladies and those who never knew the man but were admirers. Paidi was 57. Too young to die.

"He wasn't just our father; he was our best friend." – Neasa O'Sé
This enriching publication tells the remarkable story of a man form the wild and wonderful lands of West Kerry whose achievements on the playing fields and beyond made him a national institution. It is told in a most beautiful and tender way by Donal Keenan who has been one of Irelands leading journalists for the last three decades. Donal Keenan comes from a famous GAA family. His father won All-Ireland medals with Roscommon and went on to become President of the GAA in the 1970s. So who better to capture the life and times of one of Kerrys most renowned and loved footballers. This then is the story, through the eyes of those who knew him best and loved him most, of the shy youngster of Ard na Bhothair whose love for and dedication for Gaelic football opened up a whole new world.

Paidi O'Sé was a great footballer. He became a great football manager. He was also a very successful businessman and an entertainer who enticed countless numbers of tourists to visit the home place he loved with every fiber of his being. This book for me recounts in a loving caring way his achievements as a player and manager with his native Kerry when 10 All-Ireland triumphs were celebrated. And it features the amazing days in Westmeath when he dispensed his magic and gave the people experiences they will never forget. "When I was a kid I never heard him talking on the phone about anything else other than football." – Siun O'Sé.

Fogra; On Monday December 16th in a special two hour Radio Kerry Terrace Talk I will mark the first anniversary of Paidi's death. Tributes will be paid by family and friends who attended last weeks book launch in Dublin. Padraig, Tom and Mark o Se, Dara o Cinneide, Brian Cowen, Liam Hayes the former Meath star, Thomas o Flatharta, Michael Healy Rae, Dessie Doolan of Westmeath, Hugh o Flaherty, Con Paddy o Sullivan of Cork, Gerry Grogran of Croke Park and Caherceiveen, the author of the book Donal Keenan, Senators Mark Daly and Ned o Sullivan and many more

'Paidi': A Big Life by Donal Keenan
The official Biography
Published by Hero Books, Nov 2013
Price €15.99

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