Derval O'Rourke v Rena Buckley: Vote for your favourite Rebel Legend

The Echo wants you to help pick the best Cork sports star since 1970 to be in with a chance to win a €200 voucher
Derval O'Rourke v Rena Buckley: Vote for your favourite Rebel Legend

Vote for your favourite Rebel Legends each day.

DERVAL O'Rourke or Rena Buckley? 

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

We started with 32 contenders and are now into the last 16, with another tough choice for you to make. This poll will be open until 8am on Thursday morning.

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


IN Jacqui Hurley’s new book, Girls Play Too, there is a vignette which gives a real insight into the drive and determination of Derval O’Rourke.

Racing a boy in her neighbourhood in Douglas, she wanted to beat him so badly and she ran so fast that she couldn’t stop herself and ran into a concrete wall, cutting her knees. But she won.

At the start of 2006, O’Rourke held the Irish indoor 60m hurdle record, 8.02 seconds. Between the outset of the year and the day of the 60m race at the World Indoor Championships in Moscow in March, she had broken the record three times, revised downwards to 7.90. By the end of the day, the record would have been broken twice more.

In the opening round, she came second in a time of 7.93, before winning her semi-final in 7.87, leaving her “nervous, but everything was okay” prior to the final.

After the first hurdle in the final, she was second, knowing that any place in the top three would be a first sprint medal for an Irish lady at any major championship. By the midway stage, she had hit the front and would stay there until the end, but so tight was the field that a photo finish was needed to ascertain who the winner was.

There was an anxious wait before the big scoreboard in Moscow told everybody who the winner was, but then relief as Derval’s name and her time of 7.87 flashed up. 

Another new Irish record and she needed every bit of it to take the gold – four-hundredths of a second separated first place from fourth.

O’Rourke first came to prominence in 2005 when winning two bronze medals at the World University Games in Turkey. Having won the gold at the world indoors in 2006, there was no 60m hurdles in the European Championships later that year, but she did take silver in the 100m hurdles.

Derval O'Rourke celebrates her silver medal in the European Athletics Championships in 2006. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Derval O'Rourke celebrates her silver medal in the European Athletics Championships in 2006. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images

While the Beijing Olympics in 2008 proved to be a disappointment, she returned to form in a big way in 2009, taking third at the European Indoors before going agonisingly close at the World Championships in Berlin, crossing the line in fourth. That was a sizeable achievement in itself, as she set a national record of 12.67, which was also the fastest time run by a European in 2009 up to that point. It says much for Derval’s mentality, though, that she said after that race that she was “gutted” not to have won a medal, having been written off by many prior to the event, having struggled with injuries.

That progress was underlined at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona. Her time of 12.65 was just 0.2 seconds behind the winner, Turkey’s Nevin Yanit, and set a new Irish record over hurdles at 100m.

In taking silver, she made herself the only Irish athlete to win medals at both the 2006 and 2010 European Championships, and she was honoured by the AAI as the Athlete of the Year.

After representing Ireland at the Olympics for the third time in 2012, she added a final major medal when she was belatedly awarded bronze in the 60m hurdles at the 2013 European indoors. Having finished fourth, in transpired that the winner — the aforementioned Nevin Yanit — had committed doping violations. O’Rourke was reclassified to third, but not until 2015, by which time she had retired. Her life post-athletics has seen her explore new avenues as an author, fitness expert and coach on Ireland’s Fittest Family, still displaying that same single-mindedness.


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.

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