Dublin and Kerry GAA legends in the DIB: Kevin Heffernan and Páidí Ó Sé30 August 2019
Archrivals Dublin and Kerry are facing off in a much-anticipated all-Ireland final. To mark that event we are publishing the biographies of two GAA titans of these counties.
The Dublin–Kerry rivalry is the most celebrated and glamorous in Gaelic football. It first developed between 1974 and 1979 when the two sides dominated Gaelic football, their encounters across four all-Ireland finals and one all-Ireland semi-final being the highlight of each year. These contests for the Sam Maguire Cup pushed both sides to achieve new heights of fitness, physical intensity and tactical sophistication, peaking with Dublin’s victory in the 1977 all-Ireland semi-final, a match often hailed as the greatest in Gaelic football history. Kerry were then to get on top, thanks to Mikey Sheehy’s famous chipped goal in 1978 and went on to win four all-Irelands in a row before being denied a historic five in a row in the 1982 all-Ireland final. Kerry will be desperate to stop Dublin from going one better on Sunday.
This week the DIB is showcasing biographies of two of the principal protagonists of that great 1970s rivalry: Dublin’s Kevin Heffernan, who created the modern cult of the manager; and the heart and soul of the Kerry team, Páidí Ó Sé.
by Mark Duncan
Kevin Heffernan (1929–2013), GAA footballer and manager, and public servant, was born on 20 August 1929 at 51 Pembroke Cottages in Donnybrook, Dublin, the second eldest of seven children of John Heffernan, a garda originally from Offaly, and Mary (née Burke) from Kilkenny. The family moved to Turlough Parade, Marino, where Kevin grew up. He attended local schools, the Scoil Mhuire Boys National School, Marino, and St Joseph's CBS in Fairview, Co. Dublin, before joining the ESB accounts department in 1949. He later entered TCD where he graduated B.Comm. in 1957.
His family had no tradition of GAA involvement, and he began playing football and hurling, mainly at left corner forward, through his schools and through the local St Vincent's GAA club. In a deviation from the Dublin norm, St Vincent's adopted a policy in 1948 that confined membership to those born into, or residing in, the local parish, thereby precluding the selection of country-bred footballers living in Dublin. The newly 'nativised' St Vincent's team developed a revolutionary short-passing game, also based on running with the ball and a great deal of movement off it. This was ideal for Heffernan who made up in bravery, skill and intelligence what he lacked in strength and physique. By breaking with a tradition predicated on a simple 'catch and kick' philosophy and on confining players to their selected positions on the field, St Vincent's dominated the Dublin county championship from 1949, outmanoeuvring rival club sides composed mainly of players born outside Dublin.
At intercounty level he won Leinster minor medals for Dublin in football (1946) and hurling (1947), following this with Leinster and all-Ireland football medals playing for the Dublin junior footballers in 1948. He was on the Dublin senior football team from the late 1940s and was a good enough hurler to be either a starter or a substitute for the Dublin senior team during the mid 1950s. When he first began playing football for Dublin, the team included many country-born, Dublin-resident players. In the early 1950s, however, Dublin followed St Vincent's example and adopted a nativist selection policy. The link between Dublin and St Vincent's then developed to a point that their fortunes became almost entirely intertwined. By April 1953 all fourteen outfield players on the Dublin team that defeated Cavan in a National Football League Final were St Vincent's men, Heffernan amongst them. In 1955 Heffernan began playing as a roving full forward for Dublin. By dropping deep, he found the space he needed to link up with teammates, gather possession and swerve past lumbering full backs. He ran amok against Paddy 'Hands' O'Brien of Meath, long considered the best full back in Ireland, in both the 1955 National Football League final and the 1955 Leinster football final. Heffernan's scintillating attacking play drove Dublin to the 1955 all-Ireland final where they faced Kerry in an eagerly anticipated match, billed as a clash between the slick passing Dublin 'machine' and the 'catch and kick' purists of Kerry. Carrying an injury into the final, he failed to shine and was guilty in the second half of prematurely going for goals, as Dublin tried in vain to overturn Kerry's lead. The loss cut deep with him.
Two barren years followed for Dublin whereupon Heffernan, who was effectively the player-manager, decided that the defence was overelaborating with the ball and put in place a full back line that was tough, strong and cleared its lines without delay. The rest of the team played as before. A more determined and pragmatic Dublin captured the National Football League and all-Ireland titles in 1958 with Heffernan playing a starring role as captain in the all-Ireland final against Derry. He was disappointed not to win another all-Ireland or to avenge the 1955 all-Ireland final defeat, as Dublin lost all-Ireland semi-finals to Kerry in 1959 and 1962.
He retired from inter-county football in 1962 with one all-Ireland medal (1958), four Leinster medals (1955, 1958–9 and 1962) and three National League medals (1953, 1955 and 1958); playing for Leinster, he won seven Railway Cup medals (1952–5, 1959 and 1961–2). His achievements were recognised by his inclusion at left corner-forward on both the GAA's 'team of the century' and 'team of the millennium'. He also stopped hurling in 1962, but continued playing club football until 1967, scoring 1–4 in his last match as St Vincent's won the county final. At club level he won fifteen Dublin county medals (1949–55, 1957–62 and 1966–7) in football and six county medals (1953–5, 1957, 1959 and 1963) in hurling.
It was a measure of his stature within the GAA that he was considered for the position of general secretary when it fell vacant in 1964. He remained heavily involved with St Vincent's, acting as the club's football manager for most of the 1960s and 1970s. Amid an evenly and ferociously contested rivalry with UCD for the Dublin county championship during the early to mid-1970s, he guided St Vincent's to two Leinster senior football championships (1973 and 1976) and an all-Ireland club championship (1976). From 1963 he was also generally a Dublin selector, but was unhappy in this role, as the yearly shuffling of selectors led to a lack of continuity in management and on the team. The fortunes of Dublin inter-county teams stagnated: they lost competitiveness and spectator appeal.
In 1973, the Dublin GAA county board chairman Jimmy Gray convinced Heffernan to take over a streamlined, three-man selection committee, given three years tenure. In practice he rapidly assumed complete control at a time when other county teams were being run by unwieldy committees. He brought an unprecedented level of sophistication to the team's physical conditioning and tactics, combining this with old fashioned belligerence. His focus, he later remarked, was to improve individual skill levels, maximise fitness and develop a tactical style best suited to his players' talents. The impact was transformative: on 21 September, Dublin defeated Galway in the all-Ireland final to secure the county's first all-Ireland title since 1963.
In 1974 an initially unheralded Dublin team set a new standard of strength and fitness for Gaelic football. Their success spawned a social and cultural phenomenon. 'The Dubs' achieved significant popular support in the capital, appealing to a cohort of urban youth that had no previous relationship with the GAA. These legions of new support were known as 'Heffo's army', a term that became almost ubiquitous, featuring in the media, on flags, on t-shirts and even in songs.
In just over a decade – from 1974 to 1985 – Dublin footballers contested nine senior all-Ireland football finals and won four. Heffernan was not at the helm for all of them, however: following the 1976 all-Ireland final, to the dismay of some players, he stepped down as coach and manager. In his absence, Dublin retained their all-Ireland title in 1977 after which he returned. Before the decade was out, he had led them to two more all-Ireland finals both of which they lost to a Kerry team en route to becoming one of the greatest of all time. To many observers of Gaelic football, this Dublin–Kerry rivalry, fast-paced and intense, represented a particular high point for the game, not only for the outstanding matches it produced, but also because it provided a sporting clash of rural and urban Ireland. In the personalities of Kevin Heffernan and Mick O'Dwyer, his Kerry counterpart and also a famed former footballer, the Dublin–Kerry rivalry fuelled the emergence of the modern cult of the manager in Gaelic sports.
After suffering a heavy defeat to Kerry in the 1979 all-Ireland final, Dublin retreated to the sporting shadows. But when they re-emerged in 1983, Heffernan was still in charge and with a newly-fashioned team, full of youth and with only a few veterans of the 1970s glory days. He delivered an unlikely all-Ireland title to the capital, his new-look team's campaign ending in a remarkable, if ill-tempered, all-Ireland final against Galway in which four players were sent off, three of them from Dublin. Two more all-Ireland final appearances followed in 1984 and 1985 but Kerry again proved their nemesis. He stepped down again as Dublin manager after the second of those defeats, but in 1986 the GAA appointed him to manage an Irish team of Gaelic footballers travelling to Australia to contest an 'international rules' series against a team of professional Australian rules footballers. The choice of Heffernan over Mick O'Dwyer from Kerry – then the manager of seven all-Ireland winning teams – created a mini-controversy and led a number of Kerry footballers, though not all, to decline the offer to travel to Australia. The tour was still a success – Ireland won the series by two games to one – and it cemented Heffernan's reputation as a brilliant sporting tactician and motivator.
A deep intelligence was obviously critical to Heffernan's success in sports management, one former player referred to his 'genius in relation to football' (Walsh, 1989). Thus, after Dublin lost the 1975 all-Ireland final to Kerry he successfully reconstructed and redeployed his half-back line to cope with Kerry's flying forwards. In 1983 he astonished the rest of the Dublin panel by converting Joe McNally from being the subsititute goalkeeper into an all-star winning corner forward. There could be ruthlessness, too, to his managerial style, though the range of perspectives from those who played under him suggest a manager who knew when to gently coax and when to sharply prod his players to best effect.
Heffernan left a deep impression on all of those he managed, yet, with exceptions, the relationship between mentor and mentored was not personally close. He was too exacting of his players for that and too driven in his desire to succeed. When one player approached him to make representations on behalf of another who had not been selected, he replied: 'Look, I would drop my own mother if I thought she was not worth her place' (Ó Ceallacháin, 2007). He was also, perhaps, too reserved a personality to forge strong personal or social relationships with those he managed, his reticence extending to his dealings with the press, whom he didn't ignore but seldom indulged.
Outside of sport as inside it, he excelled as a leader. Appointed an industrial relations manager at the ESB in 1970, he revamped its approach to staff relations, eschewing confrontation in favour of a more open and collaborative approach. He also served as a consultant on ESB projects in Saudi Arabia and Sudan, before taking early retirement in 1985. Later that year he was nominated to the Labour Court as a representative of the Federated Union of Employers. In April 1989, labour minister Bertie Ahern appointed him chairman of the Labour Court, his tenure coinciding with the 1990 Industrial Relations Act, which introduced new procedures and machinery for dealing with industrial disputes, notably the establishment of a Labour Relations Commission (LRC). This legislation was designed to leave the Labour Court as a 'court of last resort', dealing only with the most intractable of cases. Despite overseeing the transfer of functions, particularly around the conciliation of disputes, to the LRC, he was kept busy in the early 1990s, as the Labour Court contended with increasingly complex cases centred on large-scale company restructurings.
He retired as Labour Court chairman in August 1994, but subsequently served as a non-civil service member of a Human Resource Management Group established by government to assist in the oversight and delivery of proposals contained in its May 1986 report on civil reform and customer service – 'Delivering better government: a programme of change for the Irish civil service'. A regular at greyhound tracks – his other sporting pastime was golf – he also served periods as chairman of Bord na gCon (1994–5), the semi-state body responsible for greyhound racing in Ireland, and of an independent body established to oversee the policing of greyhound racing for doping offences (2007–9).
For all the prominent public positions he held, he remained forever associated in the popular consciousness with Dublin GAA. It was for his contribution to Gaelic games that he received honorary degrees from TCD (1988) and UCD (2004), the latter coming months after he was also honoured with the freedom of the city of Dublin (2004). He continued to contribute in administrative and advisory capacities to St Vincent's and Dublin GAA: in the early 1990s he chaired a county board development committee which oversaw the implementation of new coaching programmes, including the appointment of full-time coaches to support clubs in forging links with their local schools. This marked the beginning of a transformation in the underage development of Gaelic games in Dublin that would feed into subsequent success for the county at underage and adult levels.
Kevin Heffernan died after a lengthy illness 25 January 2013 in Dublin. He was survived by his wife Mary, daughter Orla and two grandchildren. His funeral mass at St Vincent de Paul church in Marino drew a large attendance, with politicians from all parties, ex-colleagues and members of the GAA community from Dublin and beyond among the mourners. He is buried at St Fintan's Cemetery, Sutton, Co. Dublin.
Páidí Ó Sé
by Terry Clavin
Páidí Ó Sé (O'Shea, Paudie) (1955–2012), Gaelic footballer and manager, was born on 16 May 1955 in St Ann's Home, Tralee, Co. Kerry, the youngest of three sons of Tommy O'Shea of Ventry, Co. Kerry, and his wife Beatrice (née Lavin), originally of Ballymoate, Co. Sligo. Formally named Patrick, he was known as Paudie. His parents had returned to Ireland from London in 1952 when his father received compensation for injuries sustained in a road accident. They bought a shop at Ard an Bhóthair, Ventry, near Tommy's birthplace. It was a Gaeltacht area so Páidí spoke fluent Irish, gaelicising his name in 1985. As Tommy was too frail for work, Beatrice ran the household. She indulged her youngest child, particularly in his sporting endeavours.
Never interested in studies, Páidí was obsessed with becoming a Kerry Gaelic footballer, like his cousin Tom Long, a star for the Kerry seniors in the 1950s and 1960s. His brothers Tom and Mícheál lined out respectively for the Kerry minor and junior teams. After attending Cill Mhic an Dómhnaigh national school, he spent a year in Dingle CBS before badgering his parents into sending him as a boarder to St Brendan's College, a renowned football nursery in Killarney, Co. Kerry. He was on the school's senior team within two years and began playing senior football, aged fourteen, for his home club, An Ghaeltacht.
Generally selected either in the half-forward line or midfield, he won three Kerry college medals (1971–3) and two Munster college medals (1972–3) with St Brendan's until his constant misbehaviour led to his expulsion in spring 1973. He went to St Michael's College in Listowel, Co. Kerry, where he failed his Leaving Certificate in 1974, while powering its footballers to victory over St Brendan's in the Kerry College final. He bounced between the half-forwards, midfield and the backs during three barren seasons as a Kerry minor (1971–3) and four successful ones with the Kerry under-21 team (1973–6), collecting three under-21 Munster medals (1973, 1975–6) and three under-21 all-Irelands (1973, 1975–6). A regular for West Kerry by 1973, he disregarded club football upon breaking into the Kerry senior team in spring 1974, causing clashes with An Ghaeltacht officials.
Too short at five feet, nine inches for a central position and too wayward a shot for the forwards, he gravitated towards the right half-back slot, which suited his speed and hunger for the breaking ball. He was surprisingly brawny, given his relatively compact frame, combining dauntless physicality with panache, as exemplified by his bludgeoning solo runs, accurate long passes and proficient kicking off both feet. Vulnerable to strong, bustling forwards at the outset of his career, then to pacy ones latterly, he was irrepressible in between, relentlessly suffocating his marker to the point of neglecting broader defensive responsibilities. A relatively clean, albeit hot-headed, player, he eschewed sly fouls and provocations, learning with time to channel his aggression.
Benefiting in terms of strength and fitness from entering the Garda Síochána training college at Templemore, Co. Tipperary, in May 1975, he was stationed from October in Limerick city where his superiors afforded him great leeway. Accordingly, he thrived under the gruelling regime inaugurated in 1975 by the new Kerry trainer Mick O'Dwyer. In superlative form as Kerry won the 1975 all Ireland championship, he made good Kerry's midfield weaknesses by continuously carrying the ball forward, ignoring O'Dwyer's remonstrations. He achieved notoriety (while escaping dismissal) for flooring Cork opponents in the 1975 and 1976 Munster finals. His cropped hairstyle, rampaging football and bristling air distinguished him in a hirsute, notably stylish side, otherwise lacking in aggression.
After Dublin won the 1976 all-Ireland final by targeting Kerry's soft middle, he moved into centrefield for the 1977 championship. Whereas his general play had mitigated his aerial vulnerability in earlier matches, he was comprehensively outjumped in Kerry's loss to Dublin in the all-Ireland semi-final. Reverting to right half-back, he resumed hostilities with his toughest opponent, David Hickey, marking him in the four Kerry–Dublin all-Ireland finals between 1975 and 1979. In tandem with the teams' rivalry, Ó Sé won this personal duel in 1975, lost in 1976, then dominated in 1978–9.
Enjoying himself each winter, he then shed weight by drinking less and training compulsively. He undertook ten-mile plus solo runs along the rugged terrain surrounding Ventry and responded magnificently to the especially punishing workouts reserved by O'Dwyer for the 'heavies'. Although exasperated by Ó Sé's carousing and mischief-making, O'Dwyer used his zeal, bluntness and banter to motivate and unify the Kerry panel. Moreover, he invariably delivered when his team needed it most, despite his neurotically superstitious pre-match behaviour. Preferring home cures and the attentions of bonesetters to those of physios, his aversion to conventional medicine yielded a largely injury-free career.
He struggled for most of the 1979 campaign before being harshly sent off in that year's all-Ireland final, undone by an exaggerated reputation for unsportsmanlike conduct, which also cost him several all-star awards. Having lost form because his superiors had tired of indulging his work-shy attitude, he left the Garda Síochána in autumn 1979 and became a publican, leasing Kruger Kavanagh's pub in Dunquin, Co. Kerry. This brought him into contact with the Fianna Fáil leader and taoiseach, Charles Haughey, who owned the nearby island of Inishvickallane. They formed an enduring, mutually advantageous friendship.
Peaking as Kerry amassed four all Irelands in succession (1978–81), he was back to his best in 1980, diving on a Roscommon forward's boot in the all-Ireland final to prevent what would have been a decisive goal. In the 1981 decider Offaly's tactic of having his direct opponent Aidan O'Halloran drop deep allowed Ó Sé to make a match-winning contribution to Kerry's attack. He was one of the few Kerry players to hold their nerve towards the end of the 1982 final, sealing a fine performance with a point that put his team on the cusp of a historic five-in-a-row, only for Offaly to snatch victory.
Kerry's defeat in the 1983 Munster final showed that he was no longer fast enough for the half-back line. Going grudgingly into the right corner, his assumption of a purely defensive role helped Kerry win three consecutive all Irelands from 1984. He performed soundly rather than memorably, the exception being his confrontation with the burly Dublin cornerforward, Joe McNally, who sent him sprawling before the 1984 all-Ireland final began, but was ultimately broken by Ó Sé's ferocious tackling. Ó Sé captained Kerry to the 1985 all-Ireland title and acted as player coach for the West Kerry side that won successive county championships in 1984–5.
He had two daughters and a son with his wife Maire Fahy, a teacher from Ballyferriter, Co. Kerry. The year after they married in 1984, he opened his own pub at Ard an Bhóthair where the scenic beach nearby ensured a respectable trade under his fitfully-engaged management. A knowledgeable raconteur behind the bluff, ribald exterior, he had a flair for self-promotion and assiduously charmed journalists, politicians and entertainers, gaining renown as a colourful rogue. His intense garrulousness was also the mark of a driven, thin-skinned football-obsessive, prone to insomnia and depression.
The effects of age and declining training standards became clear in 1986, as he struggled for fitness, surviving off his nous and reputation. Cork exposed his diminishing pace in the drawn 1987 Munster final, though he rallied in the second half and held his own during an epoch-ending defeat for Kerry in the replay. Upon being dropped for the 1988 Munster final, he tried to undermine O'Dwyer, but admitted several years later that the decision was justified, which restored their friendship. An attempted comeback unravelled in May 1989 with a reckless tackle in a club match that left himself and his victim nursing serious head injuries. He retired soon after.
Playing 53 uninterrupted championship matches and 84 league matches for Kerry during 1974–88, he accumulated a joint record 8 all-Ireland medals (1975, 1977–81, 1984–6), 11 Munster medals (1975–82, 1984–6), 4 National League medals (1974, 1977, 1982, 1984) and 5 all-star awards (1981–5), the last 3 all-stars as a cornerback. In 10 all-Ireland finals, he conceded a goal and a point to a direct opponent. He received 4 Railway Cup medals (1976, 1978, 1981–2) with Munster.
Once retired he set about becoming the Kerry manager but was rebuffed in 1989 and 1992 as many within the county executive saw him as a loose cannon. He wooed club delegates and the media, and coached West Kerry (1990–1, 1993–4), UCC (1990–2) and the Kerry under-21s (1992–5), winning a county title with West Kerry (1990) and two Munster titles (1993, 1995) and an all-Ireland (1995) with the Kerry under-21s. As a pundit for Radio na Gaeltachta and the Irish Independent, he controversially criticised former Kerry teammates Mickey 'Ned' O'Sullivan and Denis 'Ogie' Moran during their periods managing Kerry. Kerry GAA was highly political with Ó Sé, who took soundings from Haughey and other national politicians, being particularly so.
When the position he coveted fell vacant in autumn 1995, he brokered a compromise whereby he became the trainer and overall manager while the other main contender, Séamus MacGearailt, was made coach. Their uneasy yet effective partnership lasted two years. An inspirational, if somewhat inarticulate, orator, he was a good judge of players and breathed passion, self-belief and humour into a demoralised Kerry setup, astutely tailoring his motivational ploys for individual personalities. His coaching focused on the defenders, making them tough, tight and disciplined. He preached simplicity, enjoining his players to hold their positions, commit fouls beyond scoring range and deliver fast, intelligent ball. Miming the on-field action, he was a fiery touchline presence, his antics blinding him to tactical nuances.
In 1996 he led Kerry to a first Munster title in five years, sparking lusty, well-publicised celebrations by him and his players, which drew criticisms when they were well beaten in the all-Ireland semi-final. A chastened Ó Sé intensified and modernised the training, treated his players less familiarly and curtailed media interactions, serving as an uncommunicative buffer between the team and journalists. He also stopped drinking while the players were in full training. The next year he broke a self-reinforcing cycle of failure by endowing an undistinguished side with the mental and physical toughness required to win Kerry's first all-Ireland since 1986.
His selectors immediately quit, partly due to their combustible relations with him. Unlike previously, he was permitted to choose their replacements who he disregarded during a disappointing period (1998–9) that highlighted his tactical limitations. Club delegates then elected selectors more capable of challenging him. Likewise, from late 1998 he delegated the training to his former Kerry teammate, John O'Keeffe. As coaching became too scientific for him, he compensated for a growing dependence on his backroom team by scheming disruptively against those seen as threatening his position.
Although Kerry won the 2000 all-Ireland playing exciting football, their naivety had obliged them to rely on luck while a humiliating defeat in the 2001 all Ireland semi-final heightened complaints that Ó Sé was squandering a wealth of underage talent. His use of virtuoso forward Maurice Fitzgerald as a substitute worked well, but was unpopular, being wrongly attributed to jealousy on Ó Sé's part. Disgruntled supporters further accused him of making biased selections, particularly once the Kerry team's sizeable An Ghaeltacht contingent came to include his three nephews Darragh, Tomás and Marc Ó Sé; it mattered little that all three siblings enjoyed stellar inter-county careers.
The trauma of his brother Mícheál's sudden death closely followed by Kerry's defeat in the 2002 Munster final moved him to blood youngsters, urge expressive football and heed the players' complaints that O'Keeffe was overtraining them. With Ó Sé at his most rousing, Kerry gave a series of dazzling displays before losing the 2002 all-Ireland final from a seemingly unassailable position. He had failed to counter Armagh's half-time adjustments and the ensuing recriminations culminated in him giving a newspaper interview that provoked uproar, partly for his criticisms of O'Keeffe, mainly for his reference to Kerry supporters being 'the roughest type of fucking animal' (Sunday Independent, 5 January 2003). It was an astonishing lapse after years of heroic self-repression around journalists.
The final blow occurred when Kerry were overwhelmed in the 2003 all Ireland semi-final by Tyrone's superior running, physicality and coordination. Upholding a purist brand of man-to-man football rendered obsolete by swarming configurations that emphasised fitness over skill, he strove delusively to weather this defeat, eventually being ousted acrimoniously. He was considered a failure, despite delivering six Munster titles (1996–8, 2000–1, 2003), two all-Ireland titles (1997, 2000) and one national league (1997).
He immediately became manager of a promising Westmeath side, and as such more freely indulged his love of the media limelight. Although the hullabaloo accompanying this appointment evaporated amid indifferent league form and his apparent lack of commitment, his shrewdly (and expensively) assembled backroom team had the players in peak condition for the 2004 championship. By then fully involved, he uproariously banished a defeatist mindset, surpassing all expectations by inspiring a dogged, well-organised Westmeath team to its first Leinster title. His impassioned methods were subject to diminishing returns and he lost interest once much of the panel dropped out for the next season. He departed following Westmeath's limp exit from the 2005 championship.
Apart from a disastrous stint managing Clare in 2007 and an indifferent one managing West Kerry in 2010, he accepted that football had moved beyond him, but suffered from the attendant void, drinking heavily at times. He wrote a GAA column for the Sunday Independent and attended to his long-neglected pub and to the Páidí Ó Sé football tournament, which he inaugurated in 1989 and was held in Ventry every February, latterly drawing over 1,000 players from Ireland, the USA and Europe. His Fianna Fáil activism delivered directorships of Bord Fáilte (2002–10) and Bord Iasca Mhara (2010–12).
He died suddenly in his home in Ard An Bhóthair from a heart attack on 15 December 2012. He was buried in the local graveyard. The probate of his estate suggested he left net debts of €286,641, which his family asserted ignored the rezoned value of certain properties. A ghost-written 2001 autobiography captured his elemental mix of intensity and humour. Páidí Ó Sé's statue was unveiled near his pub in 2015.
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