Brian Corcoran or Mary O'Connor: Vote for your favourite Rebel Legend

The Echo wants you to help decide who the best Cork sports star is since 1970
Brian Corcoran or Mary O'Connor: Vote for your favourite Rebel Legend

Enter our competition and be in with a chance to win €200.

BRIAN Corcoran or Mary O'Connor? 

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 two magnificent dual players from East Cork pitted against each other today.

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

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

BRIAN CORCORAN

PEOPLE don’t exaggerate when they link the great Erin’s Own and Cork hurler to Christy Ring though both played in completely different eras and it’s impossible to compare accordingly.

But, there’s no doubt Corcoran was one of the greatest hurlers of his generation, a player comfortable in defence or attack and possessing all the skills.

Whether it was on a boiling hot day in Thurles or a rain-soaked Croke Park, Corcoran had the temperament and ability to cope with all conditions and all comers.

He was comfortable on either side with a left-hand that was like a magnet when the ball came his direction.

Corcoran’s anticipation and reading of the play helped him also stand out above the crowd and he also had time in possession, the sure sign of greatness.

Little wonder then that when it came to selecting teams of the greats Corcoran’s name always featured.

Although generally recognised as an imposing centre-back and a colossus of the number 6 role, Corcoran was one of those rare treasures who could fill any position.

And when the need was great, he wasn’t slow in venturing forward to land inspirational points from almost impossible angles, witness his score from the left touchline in the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh during an Erin’s Own county final triumph.

Cork would later benefit from his talents as a forward, when Corcoran came out of retirement to play in the attack in 2004, helping the Rebels to the All-Ireland that season and again the following year.

Corcoran came back to lift two more All-Irelands. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Corcoran came back to lift two more All-Irelands. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

As a hurler, Corcoran was always destined for greatness as those with a keen eye testify backs in his under-age days with Erin’s Own and in school with Midleton CBS.

Not too many 15-year-olds come under the radar of the county minor hurling management, but Corcoran was different.

Not only was he included in their championship panel, but Corcoran made the starting 15 in a team, which reached the Munster final and destroyed Tipperary in the process.

And while disappointment was his lot as a midfielder in the All-Ireland minor final loss to Kilkenny, it was the first of many, many journeys to Croker, where Corcoran would savour several days in the sun.

What tends to be overlooked, when discussing Corcoran’s hurling exploits, is that he was just as an accomplished in football.

In his last game as a minor, at a time, when he was an established dual player, Corcoran gave one of the great full-back displays in Cork’s narrow victory over Mayo in a tight All-Ireland final back in 1991.

Three years later he added to his growing medal haul by helping Cork win the All-Ireland U21 title and naturally, Corcoran had come under the watchful eyes of the senior set-up, not just in hurling, but in football, too.

His senior football debut in 1993 led to another day out on the biggest day in the football calendar, but Derry won a controversial decider against 14-man Cork.

A Sam Maguire Cup success eluded Corcoran during his stint with the footballers, but his legacy with the hurlers will prevail for generations to come.

MARY O'CONNOR

TO many, Mary O’Connor is CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport. But to Cork people, Mary is fondly remembered as a dual star who helped her county to glory in football and camogie.

Mary has amassed 12 senior All-Ireland medals over her 16-year inter-county career. She has also won All-Stars in both codes, national leagues, and provincial titles and was also honoured with an Honorary Doctorate from UCC in 2012 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to sport in Ireland.

Going back to her playing days As a young player with Killeagh Mary fondly remembers what used to happen at the end of a game. 

She recalls that when she used to take off her helmet, the boys would say 'Oh my God, you were marking a girl!'

Mary laughs as she recalls the reaction to her ‘big reveal’ at the end of a match, as the lone girl playing for the boys’ hurling team. Back then, however, for a sports-obsessed little girl, it was serious business.

“I was conscious that I was different, and I didn’t want to be different — I just wanted to play the game like everybody else and not have to worry about being the only girl,” she said.

But that memory is with her to this day and in her role with the Federation of Irish Sport, she was instrumental in the launch of the 20x20 campaign, which aims to tackle key issues facing women’s sport in Ireland.

With the backing of key sporting bodies, media organisations and sports figures — and the support of President Michael D Higgins – the aim is to increase media coverage of women’s sports, attendance at women’s games, and female participation at all levels of sport by 20%, with a review of that due at the end of 2020.

It’s a cause of particular importance to Mary, who as a child, cut her hair short specifically to blend into the boys’ hurling team. Already a member of the local girls’ team, her passion for sport drove her to seek out every opportunity to play – and gender was not going to stop her.

Growing up in Killeagh Mary was lucky to be able to seize those opportunities. While the secondary school she attended – St Mary’s High School, Midleton – was ‘a hotbed of sporting opportunity’, she spent her evenings at Cork or club camogie training sessions.

Mary began playing football with Cork when notions of winning All-Ireland titles were just a pipe dream. The Cork camogie teams had a proud tradition of winning national titles and when Mary joined the camogie squad in 1996, it was very likely that she would win an All-Ireland medal.

Mary O'Connor celebrates after winning the 2007 league. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
Mary O'Connor celebrates after winning the 2007 league. Picture: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Her first triumph in camogie came in 1997 when Cork claimed the O’Duffy Cup and Mary played a key part. It took until 2004 for her first football All-Ireland title to come, with others following in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009.

As well as 1997 camogie titles also came her way in 1998, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009.

The dual star played in 18 All-Ireland finals over her career in the red jersey and with 12 winners medals, her record is simply outstanding.

Something many may not know is the fact that Mary also turned her attention to rugby and won honours playing with the oval ball.

Her contribution to camogie and ladies football in Cork is second to none and is truly one of the outstanding sports people of the Rebel county.

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