Wednesday 13 December 2017

Paidi was pure Kerry gold

FOR the Dubs, there was always Paidi and there was always Spillane.

Later, there would be Jacko and 'The Bomber,' - but always Spillane and always, always Paidi. Focal points for that team, in Dublin's eyes.

"The one fella we looked at on the Kerry teams - especially in the backs, was Paidi," Barney Rock explains. "Because he was always bouncing up and down the field and a lot of that team's energy came from him."

David Hickey, of course, was the man with the most frequent pleasure of Paidi's company in those unforgettable duels of the '70s and, naturally, the two cultivated a special bond.

The story goes that in 2006, when Hickey became ill himself, Paidi climbed into the car and drove immediately to Beaumont Hospital to see his old sparring partner.

"Kerry produces a lot of characters but they will never produce another Paidi," Hickey said after O Se's untimely death at 57 on Saturday morning.

Famously, Páidí had that moment with Joe McNally when the finish of the national anthem brought a swift kick in the behind for big Joe right in front of the Hill.

Or the 1975 clash with Cork's Dinny Allen, now of YouTube fame.

"He tells a great story about that skirmish which I can't recall but who was I to spoil a great story from him!" says Allen of it now.

"I got a point way over on the wing early on by the dressing-room and reputedly said to him, 'you'll be going off now soon, Paidi'.

"He claims to have replied, 'well if I'm going off you'll be coming off with me'. I think that it was his imagination but the way he told it, the story always sounded good!"

His legacy is already huge but solely in a football context, it is matchable only by the people he helped hoard it.

Eight All-Irelands, 11 Munster medals, four National League titles, five All Stars and four Railway Cups is as much as testament of the influence he had on that Kerry team's remarkable record as it had on his.


"When we were looking at him for years, you always thought to yourself, 'I wouldn't like to be marking that fella'," says Rock, who was part of the second wave of Kevin Heffernan's men and so, had watched Paidi as a teenager in Croke Park in the '70s before facing him there as an opponent in the '80s.

"Afterwards, we played them, Joe (McNally) marked him one year and Dully (Kieran Duff) marked him one of the other years."

"What we would have tried to do in '84 and '85 was, get Paidi on the back foot and get him going backwards rather than forwards. That was the one thing we were trying to ... to stop him being as influential as he was."

Any defender of that era who kept their man scoreless and only considered their job half-done must have been something of a revolutionary.

"At that time, defenders defended and forwards attacked, but Paidi turned that on its head," outlined Mick O'Dwyer after hearing the news of the death of one of his admitted favourites of his great Kerry team.

"He was a fierce competitor and not many got passed him. What set him apart though was his ability to turn defence into attack."

What will also distinguish Paidi from his former team-mates was his ability to bring a successful playing career and turn it into management.

Many of that side have tried, with various levels of relative success but Paidi won two All-Irelands with Kerry, the first after a currently unthinkable 11-year drought since he himself had won his last as a player.

He brought the Kingdom to six Munster titles and a National League before unforgettably, winning a Leinster with Westmeath.

"I was talking to Jack O'Shea earlier and what he said to me was: 'The one thing about Paidi was, when he was on the training field or in matches, he gave everything he had from start to finish. He emptied himself," says Rock.

"Off the field, he was a totally different fella. He was a lovely fella and you could have a chat with him.

"But on the field - I wouldn't say he was an animal because that would be unjust - but he wanted to win everything.

"I heard Tom Watson saying earlier on about the Ryder Cup - he said every time he played in it, he wanted to win everything.

"That's what made him a great player and that's what made Paidi a great player."

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