Copyright (c) 2013 By Robert Cox
The annual Páidí Ó Sé tournament has been given the go ahead for 2013 despite the recent death of the great Kerry GAA legend. The tournament which begins on Friday, February 24thfor two days, will coincide with The Gathering Ireland and is expected to bring large numbers to West Kerry for a weekend of GAA, Music and Fun. It is also intended to elevate the competition to International status with eight major European cities, Dubai, Singapore and China set due join Twenty-Six GAA clubs from Ireland, Northern Ireland and England.
The future of the famous event did appear to be in some doubt after Páidí Ó Sé passed away suddenly, aged just 57, at his home in Ventry on December 15th last. But friends and family of the ten time All-Ireland winner have decided to keep it going in honour of a man who was loved and admired all over Ireland and beyond.
The Kerry star won eight All-Ireland Football medals during a superb playing career and added two more as a manager of his native county. He also took Westmeath to their first ever Leinster Title in 2004. In an interview with ‘The Irish Independent’, close friend and former team-mate Pat Spillane described him as a “warrior” and one of the greatest Gaelic football defenders of all time. Spillane added: “Páidí was the life and style of every party. Páidí was a legend, a real character, a rogue in the nicest meaning of the word”.
When Páidí went about setting up the inaugural tournament in 1989 even he could not have envisaged how popular it would become. The competition was ran off in one day and involved just 4 teams from the local area. The two visiting clubs in addition to Dingle and An Gaelteacht were Bishopstown, Cork and Carraroe, Connemara . As the years passed, the tournament grew in size and got a significant enhancement with the participation of the first two ladies teams in an inter county exhibition game in 1992, which was a feature until 2007, when a full ladies competition was introduced. In February 2012, more than 2000 people descended upon West Kerry for what would sadly be Páidí’s last tournament.
Recently I caught up with Kevin McKeon, a lawyer, currently living in Luxembourg and a playing for the GAA team. He told me of his experiences of Páidí Ó Sé and of the tournament itself. “I first met Páidí back in 2002 when I travelled along with my hometown club Blackhall Gaels to take part in his tournament. I must admit I was blown away by how well known and popular he was and how he greeted me as if we had been lifelong friends. Back then there were only eight teams taking part and we were only there for the fun of it but when we returned in 2003 it was a different story. Numbers were growing by the year and we got a wake up call with the standard of teams that had been added. Its strange now, I am going back there in a few weeks, ten years on from my last appearance. A lot has changed, the down turn in the economy at home took me to Luxembourg in search of work and I got involved in the GAA there, I look forward to returning with my new team but it wont be the same as doing it with the friends I grew up with and it definitely wont be the same without Páidí”.
Luxembourg will take part in 2013 for the first time and the tournament will continue to grow. New stories will be made and old ones reminisced. Thousands will be there but one will be sorely missed. Páidí. His memory will live on though, with every ball that is kicked.
|Páidí Ó Sé
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