Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Paidi's Way Or The Highway

Paidi O’Se will be back prowling the touchlines of inter-county football fields after a year’s hiatus, having been appointed as the new Clare senior football manager. With O’Se and Ger Loughnane both donning Bainisteoir bibs anew for next year, we will perhaps look back on 2005 in twelve months time as an gentle, prelapsarian era, when kindly souls like Mickey Moran and John Morrison and perfect gentlemen like John Allen and Jack O’Connor dominated the GAA landscape, and the worst vibes going were the odd scowl from Billy Morgan or patrician glare from Brian Cody.

Paidi was on the news last night, intercepted on his way to Clare for his coronation by the intrepid Marty Morrissey. Bottled up in a smart-cut suit, he still bubbled with that spiky charisma that generally spills into offence or upset of some sort before too long.

Seeing his cheeky, feline features, my dear lady-friend recoiled: “Oooh, I hate him! Look at him!” she spat forth. I was surprised at the strength of this opinion, given her well-articulated lack of interest in any pursuits of the field. “He looks like he’s been drinking,” quoth she, pointing at his admittedly reddened visage.

“He’s just…wild!”, she added, and I understood that this was not the quality of wildness which she might once have ascribed to a River Phoenix or an Ethan Hawke in her frisky, bobby-soxing past, but rather a disapproving distaste for one who was, quite clearly, an enemy of decorum.

I don’t have such a strong opinion on O’Sé myself. Positive, I’d say, in the sense that for one who writes about things, the presence in the field of a character like Paidi is a useful one. Positive too, in the sense that for one who watches such things, the presence in the vista of a character like Paidi is an entertaining one. But I understand, too, why he is not universally loved.

Two Paidi stories.

I quote the following from the Newry Democrat of Tuesday March 9, 2004:

The Newry and Mourne Annual Sports Awards were held last Thursday night, but events did not go to plan when the guest speaker, Paidi O Se, chose to talk about political rather than sporting issues.

The awards were hosted by Newry and Mourne District Council and sponsored by the Newry Democrat and the First Trust Bank. The Chief Executive of the Newry Democrat, commenting after the ceremony said: “As part of our contribution to the evening we agreed to engage a guest speaker. We were delighted when we engaged Paidi O'Se, a Kerry ‘great’ and their former football manager, to speak at the awards.

"We looked forward to being regaled with stories of the glory years of Kerry football and perhaps some stories about the rivalry between the Munster and Ulster Counties on the football field.

"This was not to be the case and Mr O’Se started his speech by saying that while in New York a number of weeks ago he was asked if soccer and rugby should be played at Croke Park, he replied: “Fine, under one condition, that it is under a 32 county All Ireland.”

Both nationalist and unionist politicians and local business leaders attended the awards ceremony. Mr O’Se proceeded to say that he was delighted there were no more “foreigner people”, referring to the British army, checking at the border any more. A DUP councillor from the Banbridge area left the ceremony at this point.

“We were disappointed that Mr O'Se strayed from the subject of sport and into the area of politics. We had no advance notice of what was to be said by Mr O'Se and we deeply regret the politicalisation of the sports stars awards,” said Mr Brennan (the Chief Executive of the Newry Democrat".

Speaking from his pub in Ventry, Co Kerry, Mr O’Se said he regretted if his remarks had caused any difficulties for anyone.'

I recall my only close-up experience of Paidi. It was about a year ago, in the upstairs bar of Kehoes on South Anne St. in Dublin. It must have been shortly after the end of his Westmeath reign, a Saturday night, the pub packed. I glanced across the bar and saw Paidi.

Sitting on a stool, facing the bar, arms folded, red face screwed up in that expression that lurks somewhere on the flipside of amusement and pain; Tomas O’Flahartha (his erstwhile Westmeath assistant and successor in the position) standing at his shoulder, leaning down to speak into his ear; Paidi reacting only in nods or tilts of the head; the rest of his party behind him, momentarily cut-off from any contact – save through the intermediary of Factotum O’Flatharta) or even the courtesy of conventional social body language.

Paidi O’Sé sat in the upstairs bar of Kehoes in Dublin and had his pint, the way he wanted it, like he was sitting at his own counter down in Ventry. He was so convincing, that for a moment I thought I was too.
The good folk of the Newry and Mourne District Council know that Paidi does things his way.

The footballers of Clare will, I expect, be aware of that fact too, quite soon.

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