Briege Corkery or Seán Óg Ó hAilpín: Pick your favourite Rebel Legend

Two of Cork's greatest GAA players are pitted against each other here and your votes will decide the winner
Briege Corkery or Seán Óg Ó hAilpín: Pick your favourite Rebel Legend

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BRIEGE Corkery or Seán Óg Ó hAilpín? 

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 of Cork's most popular GAA superstars going head to head today.

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

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

BRIEGE CORKERY

EVERY team has special characters and unique characters — a character both on and off the field, and one who always produces the goods on the big day.

Cork dual star Briege Corkery certainly fits that bill. She loved to celebrate wins with her club and county and was always great fun in doing so. But once she crossed that white line then God help her direct opponent, because, be it football or camogie, they knew they were in for a tough day.

She has been compared to many sports stars, but one comparison rings true when fans said she was like Roy Keane. 

In that, they meant that from the first minute to the last she gave it everything, and such was her fitness levels she was full of running to the end.

To call her inspirational is probably understating the part she has played in Cork’s football and camogie success over the years.

Briege Corkery on the break past Kilkenny's Elaine Aylward. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Briege Corkery on the break past Kilkenny's Elaine Aylward. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

There are many outstanding moments, but one off the pitch in 2016 is one all those in the dressing-room that day will never forget.

Just before Cork headed back out the door of the dressing room for the second half of the 2016 All-Ireland football final, Corkery took to the floor.

Cork had been here before in 2014, trailing Dublin at the turnaround, albeit not by as much, but this time, for some reason, it meant a bit more. The tears shed at half-time by some would suggest so anyway.

Maybe it was because they hadn’t done themselves justice, but maybe it was because this could very well have been the final curtain call for those who’ve battled in red since 2005. Some as young as 15, like Deirdre O’Reilly.

Momentum was with Gregory McGonigle’s Dublin, seeking to oust Cork at the third time of asking, but Corkery’s actions instigated a rise in the tide.

In her hands, she had two photographs. The first she placed on the cold concrete floor at her feet. The second she placed on the wall left of the dressing room door.

“We can either be that person, or we can be that person,” she said, pointing at both, looking around the room. All eyes on her. Not a flicker of an eyelid.

The first snapshot she placed on the floor was that of a crumpled Juliet Murphy lying on the turf in Banagher in 2010. The former Cork captain’s chin is tucked into her chest. Torn. Distraught. 

It’s the 2010 All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Tyrone; the only defeat Cork had suffered in the All-Ireland series since 2005. Corkery doesn’t want to go back there, and she’s not going to allow her team-mates to go there either.

The second snapshot Corkery face-plants onto the wall seconds later is from Cork’s 2014 comeback against Dublin two years earlier. Ten points down with 16 minutes to go, Eamonn Ryan’s troops had been to hell and back to win by a point.

This time the snapshot is of goalkeeper Martina O’Brien jumping in the air at the final whistle. The time is now, the feeling is now, and Corkery reminds those bunkered down in dressing room two what it’s like to feel elation again.

She had just shown them.

She had felt the heartache of defeat two weeks earlier with the Cork camogie team, and she wasn’t in the mood to feel it again.

Upon passing O’Brien’s winning emotion on the wall as they walked back out onto the pitch, the Cork players walk into another win in Croke Park — their 11th — and with it a new era under manager Ephie Fitzgerald.

And that moment sums Briege, a leader by example, but when she spoke others listened and responded.

SEÁN ÓG Ó hAILPÍN

FROM FIJI to Farranree where one of the most glittering GAA careers began and went on to become one the Association’s best known and respected individuals.

That, in a nutshell, is Seán Óg Ó hAilpín who became an iconic Cork GAA figure and who climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand in 2005 to collect the MacCarthy Cup as Cork hurling team captain.

His speech on that September Sunday afternoon, all of it as Gaeilge has become part of GAA folklore and was applauded throughout the land.

Born to a Fijian mother and a county Fermanagh father, he was brought to Ireland by his parents along with the rest of the family, among them Teu and Setanta, top-notch players in their own right and, as they say, the rest is history.

Seán Óg Ó hAilpín in action against Eugene O'Neill, Tipperary. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Seán Óg Ó hAilpín in action against Eugene O'Neill, Tipperary. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Ó hAilpín first enjoyed hurling success as a member of the North Mon senior hurling team. He won a Dr Harty Cup medal in 1994, before later lining out in the All-Ireland colleges’ final against St Mary’s from Galway when success was the North Mon’s again.

Na Piarsaigh became his club and his contribution to the great Northside unit has been immense.

In 1995 Ó hAilpín won a championship medal at minor level as the club triumphed in the then U18 grade.

Ó hAilpín was just out of the minor grade when he joined the club’s senior team in 1995. That year he lined out in his first senior county final.

Ballyhea were the opponents on that occasion; however, victory went to the city-side on a scoreline of 1-12 to 3-1. It was Ó hAilpín’s first senior county championship medal.

It took Na Piarsaigh almost a decade to qualify for their next county final at senior level, as 2004 saw the club take on Cloyne.

An intriguing contest ensued and, at the full-time whistle, Na Piarsaigh prevailed 0-17 to 0-10.

Of course, some of his greatest achievements were in the red jersey of Cork and he won an All-Ireland minor medal in 1995 when Cork defeated Kilkenny in the final.

He was a hugely influential member of the Cork All-Ireland U21 teams of 1997 and 1998, achievements that were a launchpad for the glorious All-Ireland senior victories of 2004 and 2005.

However, that might not have happened at all if he had not survived a bad car crash a few years earlier which he happily recovered from.

He was immersed too in the Cork players strike in 2003 and recently he spoke of his regrets of that time.

“That’s one thing I do regret, the casualties, that people did have to step down,” the Na Piarsaigh’s man said when talking about Bertie Óg Murphy’s 2002 departure during the first strike.

“The worst one,” he continued, “was ’09 and the one where there’s still aftermath… the biggest casualty out of that was Gerald McCarthy. Probably one of – if not the greatest – Cork greats having to step down."

However, nothing should take away from the fact that Seán Óg, as he is affectionately known, was and continues to be a wonderful Cork GAA ambassador, an iconic figure and a wonderful person.

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