Rob Heffernan or Teddy McCarthy: Vote for your favourite Rebel Legend

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Rob Heffernan or Teddy McCarthy: Vote for your favourite Rebel Legend

The Echo Rebel Legends started out with 32 sports people who shone on Leeside and beyond since 1970.

ROB Heffernan or Teddy McCarthy? 

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 world champion athlete and a history-making dual ace paired off 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.

ROB HEFFERNAN

FEW athletes competing as individuals on a world stage captured the essence of Corkness better than race-walker Rob Heffernan.

It’s only when you glance at not just his impressive medal collection, but his participation in so many major championships that you start to appreciate his immense contribution to his particular discipline.

And race-walking isn’t just any sport. You only have to look at the courage, determination, sheer bloody-mindedness and the skill and technique to understand the high degree of difficulty, at all levels.

Heffernan took huge pride in representing his club Togher AC, Cork, and Ireland during a memorable career, which took in five Olympic Games, half-a-dozen World Championships, two European Championships as well as five World Race Walking Cups and the same again in Europe’s equivalent.

Pride of place are the gold medal won at the World Championships in Moscow in 2013 and the two bronze medals from the London Olympics the year before and the Europeans in Barcelona in 2010.

Race walking is unlike most other track events and even sport in general because the threat of disqualification hangs over every athlete throughout, from the starter’s gun to crossing the finishing line.

It just adds to the overall package because there’s the added mental strain of not knowing, when a fussy official will reach for his cards, signalling his displeasure at breaching the strict rules.

Literally, one step out of place could be the ruination of a walker and at a critical stage of a race, too.

Heffernan showed the mental courage of a true champion on that famous Moscow day seven years ago and how fitting that he eclipsed the local favourite, Mikhail Ryzhov, on his own patch, as well.

Rob Heffernan. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Rob Heffernan. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Only the season before Heffernan suffered the heart-break of a fourth-placed finish in London, squeezed out of the medals in a race won by another Russia, Sergey Kirdyapkin, who was later stripped of his medal because of a drug offence and Heffernan promoted to third.

This time though the Cork walker would leave no doubt about the merit of his achievement, shrugging off the prospect of being just one warning away from getting kicked out of the race.

Heffernan was with the leading pack at half-way in the gruelling 50km event when it broke up, leaving him and the local favourite to battle it out for gold.

In the end, Heffernan strode away with a few kilometres to go and had over a minute to spare, when crossing the line, becoming the country’s first world champion since Sonia O’Sullivan in 1995.

Heffernan was also the first male world champion in 30 years since Eamonn Coghlan’s exploits in 1983.

It was the crowning moment in a glittering career, which came to an end, when Heffernan called it a day two years ago, aged 40.

He bowed out on his own terms and left a legacy that will endure for generations to come.

There was no prouder Corkman to represent his city and county

TEDDY McCARTHY

IT’S a well-worn cliche, we’ll never see his likes again; where Teddy McCarthy is concerned that is the case.

The great man from the Sarsfields club has the unique distinction of being the only player to win an All-Ireland SHC and SFC medals on the playing field in the one year and now with the role of the dual intercounty player all but extinct, that distinction will stand the test of time.

Teddy Mac, as he is better known on Leeside, was a key member of the Cork hurlers and footballers in 1990 when they completed the magnificent double under the stewardship of the late Canon Michael O’Brien, coach Gerald McCarthy, and Billy Morgan on the football front.

One of the game’s natural athletes, there was not a better sight on the playing fields of Ireland than McCarthy soaring into the skies to collect a sliotar or a football.

McCarthy began his playing career at Sarsfields, and it was at the tender age of 15 that he won his first major hurling championship when he starred with the North Mon in their 1980 Dr Harty Cup win.

There is little doubt that McCarthy had a glittering career at all levels of the game, but with the present back-door system, he reckons it would be a near impossibility to play both codes now.

In an interview with John Coughlan, of this parish, he put the achievement of winning the double All-Ireland into perspective

“It was hard enough when we had to win four games to win an All-Ireland, but nowadays a team coming through the back-door system could play up to eight games or more,” he said.

He won All-Ireland medals at minor and U21 in both codes and it was obvious from a very young age that he would have a hugely successful career.

In 1985 McCarthy made his senior inter-county debut with the footballers and the following year he made his championship debut with the hurlers in the All-Ireland final against Galway.

Many pundits questioned the wisdom of such a move, but McCarthy more than played his part in one of the most open finals at Croke Park.

He won his first Munster medal with the footballers, but a defeat to Meath prevented him from winning back-to-back titles in different codes

In 1989 he played in his third senior final when the footballers avoided three defeats in a row, defeating Mayo, but it was 1990 which would earn McCarthy one of the greatest achievements in the game.

While the whole country was shutting down with Italia 90 going on, the GAA season took somewhat of a back seat for a period.

McCarthy missed the provincial wins over Tipp (hurling) and Kerry (football) but was back to claim his place for the deciders.

Teddy McCarthy in action against Brian Stafford and PJ Gillic. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Teddy McCarthy in action against Brian Stafford and PJ Gillic. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Despite the Rebels being the underdogs, Galway were beaten for the second time in four years, and for the following two weeks, the talk was as much about McCarthy’s quest for history as there was about Cork seeking a two-in-a-row.

Meath were again the team that stood in Cork’s way, but even with the dismissal of Colm O’Neill, the Rebels edged past by two points and McCarthy achieved what no dual player had ever managed, and something that may well never be seen again.

Truly, one of the great Cork hurlers and footballers.

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