Edwin McGreal and Michael Commins
This morning (Tuesday) three legends of Mayo football, Martin Carney, John Maughan and Willie Joe Padden, will travel together to West Kerry to pay tribute at the funeral of Kerry star Páidí Ó Sé, who died at the weekend.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Martin Carney summed up the legacy the Ventry native will leave.
“He was the most iconic Gaelic sportsman in our lifetime. That’s as a player, as a manager, as a personality, in every sense,” said Carney.
He first encountered Ó Sé on the 1976 All Star trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“He was irrepressible. He was wonderful company and great fun to be with. He was a seanachaí, a rogue and so loveable. When you were in his company it was a laugh a minute. The way he would tell a story would have you in stitches. Now he might embellish it a bit (laugh) but he would have you laughing so hard. He was one of these people who were so life-affirming when you came across them,” recalls Carney.
The pair competed against each other on several occasions, both as players and, later, managers.
“He was very fair. He was hugely aggressive but in a totally legal way. He would never open his mouth to you or leave a finger on you other than when he was going for the ball. He had a phenomenal passion for the game and for Kerry.
“I played against him a good few times. The 1981 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kerry for Mayo wasn’t one of our better days. He was marking me and I didn’t get a kick! They destroyed us that day but we had a few good battles over the years,” recalled Carney.
Carney and Ó Sé pitted their wits against each other on the sideline for Railway Cup games, managing Connacht and Munster respectively, and Carney at U-21 level too, when Kerry beat Mayo after a replay in 1995.
“He said afterwards that winning that final gave him the platform to go on to the seniors because he had been turned down previously for the seniors and felt if he lost that game, he would never have taken over the senior and as it turned out, he went on to win two senior All-Irelands with them,” said Carney.
Former Mayo and Galway manager and current Mayo TD John O’Mahony also played against Páidí Ó Sé and competed against him on the sidelines too.
“Páidí became a personal friend over the years and I am deeply shocked at his sad passing. Páidí was a great servant of the GAA, as a player and a manager, and he was the life and soul of the party wherever he went. His contribution to the GAA for Kerry and nationally was immense.
“Back in 2001, I accompanied Páidí on all-star trip to Dubai and in the 70s I played against him for Mayo in an All-Ireland final and his prowess in the sporting world was matched only by his great companionship off the field. His loyalty to the people he knew and to the GAA was remarkable. He will be sorely missed.”
Paidi Ó Se had his last drink in Mayo in PJ Byrne’s Pub in Claremorris back in September. One of the greatest characters in the history of the GAA was greeted by almost everyone he met on the street in town that day.
“We were all stunned with the news,” said Dick Byrne yesterday (Monday). “Páidí was one of the all-time greats. It came as a terrible shock. On Friday night Tom Garvin and a few of them were talking about him in the pub. When Tom came in on Saturday he had not heard the news. He nearly dropped with the shock.”
Páidí was on his way back down to Kerry from Donegal after attending the funeral of Kiltimagh native Denis Charlton, husband of former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, when he called into Byrne’s Pub.
“The lads were thrilled to see him. He had a half one that day. He just loved the craic and the banter. He was larger than life. Any man who has 8 All Ireland medals has to be an extraordinary person. Páidí was that and more. He was one of our own, he made himself at home anywhere. People just took to him, he was on fire with energy. When he stepped outside the pub, the people were all coming up to shake his hand and welcome him to Mayo. They just loved him.”