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Páidí’s féile basks in spirit and sunshine

Páidí’s féile basks in spirit and sunshine

A legend lives on.  He may be gone, but the unquenchable spirit of Páidí Ó Sé was everywhere during the annual football tournament that bears his name in his beloved West Kerry at the weekend.

Participants even thanked him for the clement weather that blessed the event, the biggest in its 24-year history.

“He wanted to make this the biggest féile peile and saw it as his contribution to The Gathering,” said his widow, Máire. “He put so much into it and was travelling somewhere every second day.”

The tournament attracted 48 men’s and women’s teams from this country, England, Wales, Scotland, Belgium, Germany, and Spain, and helped fill almost 2,000 empty beds at a slack time of year.

As usual, the eponymous public house that Páidí built at Árd a’ Bhóthair, outside Ventry, was the hub of all activity, and a large marquee was attached to cater for the crowds, who were well fed and watered during a constitution-testing weekend on and off the pitch.

Prominent participants included Jason Sherlock and Alan Brogan of Dublin, Larry Reilly of Cavan, and Mayo’s Cora Staunton.   Getting teams to come from far-flung places and sending coaches to collect them from various airports was a huge logistical exercise, sadly complicated by Páidí’s sudden death on Dec 15.

By sheer force of his charismatic personality, Páidí had the ability to get people to do things for him, but wasn’t a great man for the paperwork, as he depended largely on personal contacts and verbal agreements.

So, those left to run the tournament, sponsored by Eurospar Cuisine de France and Lee Strand Milk, had a deal of work to do. Páidí started organising about six months before his death, attending the European GAA Championships in Maastricht, Belgium. It was there he met people who would bring teams to Árd a’ Bhóthair.

His brother Tomás, one of the chief organisers, recalled that Páidí had contacts “all over the place” since his days as an eight-time All-Ireland medallist with Kerry.

“He always had someone he could rely on in every club, a person he would have known well for years,” said Tomás. “As well as that, he would have attended an awful lot of GAA functions, especially in England, and people liked to return the favour by sending teams to the féile peile.

“As a former director of Tourism Ireland, he saw the féile as something that boosted tourism in the Dingle Peninsula and helped promote many other events here, such as Féile na Bealtaine, in Dingle.’’

A relaxed Tourism and Sports Minister Leo Varadkar was among the guests at the féile and attended some of the matches, including the unusual pairing of Watford versus Madrid, in Keel.  But the Dubliner, who threw in the ball at a match on Saturday, admitted being a relative newcomer to Gaelic games.

“My sporting background would be rugby, but I started going to many GAA games as possible when I became minister two years ago,” said Mr Varadkar, a newly minted supporter of the Dubs. “I rarely miss a chance to go to a match.”

He said he hoped the féile would be the start of a successful year for The Gathering. “Around 3,000 events that we know of are being organised and there will be many more,” he said. “The aim is to attract an additional 325,000 visitors.’’

Memories of Páidí were recalled by many people sipping pints in the pub, now run by Máire and their daughters, Neasa and Siun.  Photographer Don MacMonagle mounted an exhibition of his favourite pictures of Páidí taken at different stages of his life.

Since his untimely passing, the Ó Sé family has received thousands of messages and tributes by way of letters, cards, and social media.

“For the family, it’s nice to know he was so popular,” said Tomás.

“Páidí himself was a great man to write to people, if they had problems, or if they had something to celebrate. There was no week he wouldn’t write 40 or 50 cards.”

That habit of penmanship got its reward at the weekend as many féile visitors said a few words at Páidí’s peaceful grave overlooking Ventry Beach.
Foilsithe ar 25 Feabhra 2013 / Foilsithe ar 25 Feabhra 2013

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