Rena Buckley or Jonjo O'Neill: Vote for your favourite Rebel Legend

The Echo wants you to help decide who the best Cork sports star is since 1970
Rena Buckley or Jonjo O'Neill: Vote for your favourite Rebel Legend

The Echo Rebel Legends competition will run until March.

RENA Buckley or Jonjo O'Neill? 

The Echo is running a fun contest from here until March 11 where you can vote for your favourite Cork stars since 1970 and pick the winners in each round until we're left with an overall Rebel Legend winner.

There are 32 contenders, with the unstoppable All-Ireland winner and a horse racing phenom going head to head today.

This poll will be open until 8am on Saturday morning.

Here's the case for each of the Leeside stars and keep checking here for the updates on the winners in each round.

RENA BUCKLEY

BEFORE she left school, Cork legend Rena Buckley had two All-Ireland medals in her back pocket, and she had also been honoured as an All-Star.

By the time she finished at inter-county level Rena has amassed 18 senior All-Ireland medals, 11 in football and seven for camogie, making her the most successful player in the game, male or female.

She has also represented Munster in the Gael Linn Cup and Ireland at international rules. Between 2005 and 2017 was when Rena won her 18 All-Ireland winners medals.

In 2012 she captained Cork when they won the All-Ireland senior ladies football championship and in 2017 she captained Cork when they won the All-Ireland senior camogie championship.

Cork dual icon Rena Buckley during a camogie clash. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Cork dual icon Rena Buckley during a camogie clash. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

She was the first, and only, player to captain Cork to both All-Ireland senior championships. She was also named as an All-Star on 11 occasions. In 2015 Rena and her team mate and fellow dual player, Briege Corkery, were named joint winners of the 2015 Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year Award.

The most successful player in the country started her career with Donoughmore as a 14-year-old in 2001 and a few months later, she lined out at wing-back in their All-Ireland club final victory over Ballyboden St Enda’s.

The rules of the game now state that anyone under the age of 17 cannot play adult football, and if that rule was in place when Buckley was coming through, her sideboard would be a little barer. 

However, she claims her early exposure to the senior ranks was the big reason behind her future success.

“It was huge for my development. I think it was key, without a doubt. To get that standard of football at that age was great. To be playing at that level for a good long period with such experienced players and in that management team was a brilliant time for me,” she said.

Rena sparkled for Donoughmore throughout November in 2019 as they landed the All-Ireland Junior Football Club Championship title.The 32-year-old scored a combined 1-13 in the All-Ireland semi-final and final.

She bagged 1-6 to fire Donoughmore past Meath and Leinster champions Navan O’Mahonys in the last four and followed that up with 0-7 against Mayo’s MacHale Rovers in the decider at Duggan Park, Ballinasloe.

That victory earned Buckley an incredible 21st All-Ireland medal, and her third at club level. She was a member of the Donoughmore teams that landed the All-Ireland senior club titles in 2001 and 2003.

In typical Rena fashion she deflects the spotlight away from herself and has always been full of praise for those around her, both on and off the pitch.

“I’ve been on brilliant teams with brilliant people. I’m talking about the whole set-up — management teams, players. And, like me, those players would have had great family support,” said Rena.

“To become a successful player, you need support as a person. The players who tend to play for years at a high level tend to get great support from the people around them.

“My family has been hugely supportive, and I think family support is something you’ll see with most sportspeople, especially those who play after school level.” 

Away from the pitch, Rena is a member of the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists. Since September 2015 she has operated her own clinic at Macroom. Her clinic is the club physiotherapists for several local GAA clubs including Naomh Abán.

JONJO O'NEILL

SINCE departing his home village of Castletownroche to pursue a career as a jockey, Jonjo O’Neill has become a horse racing icon. Widely-regarded as one of the greatest riders of all-time, he has since established himself as one of the best trainers in the UK.

The local hero rode his first winner 50 years ago and subsequently went on to record another 900 successes over the 16 years of his race-riding career. 

He is synonymous with several equine legends of the sport, none more so than with Dawn Run. O’Neill delivered the wonder-mare to win the 1984 Champion Hurdle and the 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup. 

Dawn Run still remains the only horse to have completed that historic double. 

O’Neill was twice crowned champion jumps rider in Britain, across the 1977-78 and 1979-80 seasons. The first year he won the jump jockeys’ title, he set what was then a record, by booting home 149 winners for the campaign.

Other big-race triumphs during his days as a jockey include the 1979 Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Alverton and the 1980 Champion Hurdle aboard Sea Pigeon.

The Corkonian suffered multiple injuries as a jump jockey. This might be viewed as par for the course by many, considering that jump jockeys ride horses at speed over obstacles. However, after a particularly nasty injury in 1980, he almost lost his leg, resulting from complications suffered in a fall at Bangor. He has displayed an iron will to overcome such setbacks, mind.

He made a successful return to action and went on to make history aboard Dawn Run. After calling time on his career as a jockey, not long after those Cheltenham heroics, he set about entering the training ranks.

Trainer Jonjo O'Neill.
Trainer Jonjo O'Neill.

However, he was to be diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the early months of his new life chapter. His first winner as a trainer – Shelbourne, at Ayr in 1987 – arrived while O’Neill was ill in hospital. But he overcame that cancer battle with great character, demonstrating once again that remarkable ability to keep moving forward when faced with adversity.

O’Neill has since gone on to have a hugely successful career as a trainer, becoming the first person to ride and train 100 winners in a season. With over 2,200 winners and counting, he ranks as one of the top handlers in the UK. The victory of Gispy Fiddler in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot in 1990 was his first big-race success as a trainer.

And while he may not have won the Grand National as a rider, he did triumph in the world’s most-famous steeplechase as a trainer, courtesy of Don’t Push It in 2010. 

O’Neill added to the Gold Cup glories he enjoyed as arider by saddling Synchronised to win the blue riband in 2012.

That win is one of 26 Cheltenham Festival wins so far.

There have been scores of other notable wins for the man based at the state-of-art training facility of Jackdaws Castle, which is located in the heart of the Cotswolds.

O’Neill has readied many familiar names to win high-profile races on the track, such as Albertas Run, Black Jack Ketchum, Exotic Dancer, Holywell, John’s Spirit, More Of That, Taquin Du Seuil, Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman.

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