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'I Scored 0-10 From Play, He Rang That Evening To Drop Me' - How Páidí Ó Sé Drove Westmeath To Glory

'I Scored 0-10 From Play, He Rang That Evening To Drop Me' - How Páidí Ó Sé Drove Westmeath To Glory
Gary Connaughton
By Gary Connaughton
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In the GAA, there are a few legendary figures that stand above the rest. Be it their exploits on the pitch, on the sideline, or their manner, there is just something special about them.

Amazingly, Páidí Ó Sé - who passed away 11 years ago today - fits into all three of those categories. He was an incredible player, going on to become one of the most successful managers in the modern era. Of course, all this was done while possessing one of the most infectious personalties in the sport.

He is a Kerry legend, but his influence was not restricted solely to The Kingdom.

Just ask the people of Westmeath.

Nearly two decades on from his brief stint in the midlands county, his impact is still being felt. The 2004 season would begin with questions about Páidí's commitment, but it would culminate in the first provincial crown in the county's history.

Of course, the whole year was immortalised in the brilliant documentary Marooned.

Denis Glennon was one of the star performers that season. Coming into the panel as a starry-eyed teenager, he would soon find himself as a key cog in a Leinster-winning side.


However, speaking to Balls, he recalled that things weren't necessarily all rosy in the garden during the early days of Páidí's reign.

To be honest, it seemed like he didn't want to be there. That's genuinely the feeling we were getting.

Tomás O'Flaharta was doing the majority of the work, he was taking the training sessions. There was a lot of time Páidí was arriving late and going early. We genuinely thought this lad's heart wasn't in it.

Ultimately, as soon as championship came around, he changed. His mentality changed and you could see it in him. I suppose that started to feed down through the rest of us and we realised we need a reality check here as well.

This was Páidí's first year with Westmeath, he was still getting to know the players. There was an awful lot of lads that were getting runs, even in the league. He was giving everyone their shot.

I suppose he was taking a small bit of backlash because the results weren't coming in. I think ultimately he knew what he was doing, and he was building toward championship.

While results may have been lacking in those early days, Ó Sé's impact on the players was not.

His mind games with his own panel have become well-known at this stage. He knew exactly what buttons to push with players in order to get them to perform to their best, even if they didn't realise that's what he was doing at the time.

Denis Glennon had a prime example.


Having been brought into the senior panel for the first time under Páidí, he took to senior inter-county football like a duck to water. That included scoring a personal tally of 0-10 in an O'Byrne Cup game, at which point he thought he was nailed for a key role in the side moving forward.

However, Páidí had his own way or ensuring that he did not let the forward take his eye off the ball.

It was all mind games with Páidí.

We played an O'Byrne Cup game and I scored 0-10 that day from play. I remember coming away from the match going 'Jesus, I'm a shoe-in here to start for championship', I was flying and going well.

He rang me anyway that evening. I could tell straight away that he had a few drinks or a few jars in him because there was lot of slurring of the words. In the Kerry accent he said to me 'look, you went alright today but I'm going to drop you, you're not what I'm looking for in this team'.

He hung up the phone and I remember just sitting at the edge of the bed and my mother came up to me and says 'what's wrong with you'. I told her I was after being dropped from the county panel.

He had said to me before he hung up the phone 'you won't do the tackling and the dirty stuff that I'm looking for, that man that will go down on the dirty ball and put the head where another lad wouldn't put his foot'.

I'd say, maybe 15 or 20 minutes went by I was were sitting thinking' I should have put a hand in or a tackle in'. The phone rang again and it was Páidí.

He says 'I've had a change of heart, I'm bringing you back in and you're getting one more opportunity to prove to me that you can do what I'm looking for'. I just remember the next match going out, and I don't think I got near a score, but I tackled like a demon. That was a weakness that I had probably in my game and he's seen that.

He knew the way to challenge me to start thinking of it and to start working on it.


'He Was Ahead Of His Time. He'd Go To Bed For A Couple Of Hours During The Day'


Remembering Dolly Parton's Madcap Visit To Páidí Ó Sé's Pub In 1990

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It may have been a difficult start to the year, but once championship got underway, Westmeath hit the ground running.

They started with a victory over Offaly, their first provincial victory over their neighbours since 1949. While that was a huge milestone, it was widely expected that their campaign would end against Dublin in the quarter-finals.

Instead, they beat the Dubs by two points at Croke Park. Having been booed and mocked by Dublin supporters on their way to GAA HQ, they were applauded out of the ground by the same spectators a few hours later.

At that point, it was clear that something special was happening. Some of the supporters were thinking of a potential Leinster triumph, but Páidí ensured that feet stayed firmly on the ground within the panel.

His speeches that season have become part of GAA folklore thanks to Marooned, but they served a purpose.

We were just taking it game by game. There's a phrase he used, and I use it now when I play, and that's 'a good detective is never off duty'. That was his mentality.

You were tuned in for that next game coming up and you had to prepare properly. If you started to slide back in training, well then you started to go down the pecking order in Páidí's eyes.

That was the Kerry mentality as well. It was cut-throat...

Páidí was excellent in the dressing room. Once he started to speak, you could hear a pin drop. The first thing he says to you is 'lads, I've won eight All-Ireland medals'.

People may say that is egotistical or whatever, but that's the mentality that man had.

Like, whoever heard of 'a grain of rice will tip the scale' or 'you got thrown over the line like you'd grab a loaf of bread'?

The stuff seemed stupid, but you started to think about it at the same time. If a lad said 'you didn't do that well', you wouldn't think about it again. He used certain words that would mentally stick in your head and bring the best out of you.

Whatever they were being fed by their manager, it was certainly working. After dispatching of Wexford in the semi-final, they would set up a date with defending champions Laois in the final.

It was also a reunion between Páidí and Mick O'Dwyer, the man that helped him rack up those All-Ireland medals during his spell as Kerry manager.

Westmeath were the better team for much of the final and looked to be on course to a win. However, a late salvo from Laois ensured the game would go to a replay. Many felt that the Lake County had missed their opportunity against more fancied opposition.

That didn't prove to be the case. After yet another excellent performance, Westmeath would emerge winners on a scoreline of 0-12 to 0-10. It was a historic moment, one that Denis Glennon didn't immediately appreciate at the time.

While it was incredible to get his hands on the Delaney Cup, he does still have some regrets on how the All-Ireland quarter-final against Derry played out some weeks later.

I was so young. All I did was play football, I didn't realise the ramifications of what we were after doing until I seen the crowd on the pitch.

Then I looked around at the players that were there,  Damien Healy was on his knees and he was crying. Alan Mangan came up to me, and Alan is my best friend now, and he was just like a man that had won the Euro millions. You could see straight away he was in a different world.

That's when I realised we were after doing something really, really special...

I look back on it now and I remember the night before the Derry game I was away playing the playstation until 4am. My mentality had completely switched.

I know of the other lads' mentality during the week, we were just laid back and were so happy with what we achieved I thought we performed pretty well, and that was a very good Derry team.

I think at that stage, we were physically and mentally done. We put in such a huge effort to get where we were.

In the end, it seemed that the team had become mentally exhausted with what they had put in to reach that point.

Páidí Ó Sé asked a huge amount of them, something they ultimately delivered on. Perhaps better than any of his achievements in his native Kerry, this was the perfect example of his ability to get the best out of the people around him.

It is something that will live long in the memory of those who were lucky enough to work with him.

SEE ALSO: 'He Was Ahead Of His Time. He'd Go To Bed For A Couple Of Hours During The Day'

Tomás Páidí Ó Sé



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