The Echo Rebel Legends quarter-finals: Sandie Fitzgibbon v Rob Heffernan

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
The Echo Rebel Legends quarter-finals: Sandie Fitzgibbon v Rob Heffernan

Vote for your favourite Rebel Legends each day.

SANDIE Fitzgibbon or Rob Heffernan? 

The Echo is running a fun contest 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.

We started with 32 contenders and we're now left with eight, which means there are hard calls to be made every day. 

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

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

SANDIE FITZGIBBON

The sport of camogie has always been a relatively successful one for this county and the outstanding Sandie Fitzgibbon made a huge contribution to that success.

Sandie enjoyed a very successful career which included winning seven consecutive senior county medals with her beloved Glen Rovers.

She began playing with the Glen as a nine-year-old and won her first All-Ireland minor medal in 1978 at the age of 14.

Sandie was born in 1964 and was one of a sporting family of six sisters and one brother.

Her successes in camogie are nothing short of amazing and her most notable achievement was playing in 13 senior All-Ireland camogie finals with Cork.

At club level she won 10 Cork senior medals with Glen Rovers that included the seven-in-a-row between 1990 and 1996.

Fitzgibbon also has eight Munster Senior Championship medals and just to round off her club career she won four Senior All-Ireland medals in 1988, 1990, 1992, and 1993.

There is no doubting Sandie played with and against the best during her career and she looked back on it with mixed emotions.

“I would say losing six All-Ireland titles in a row was the most disappointing for me, but in a nutshell, it was the same for all my team-mates,” she said.

At no stage did Sandie ever feel that she wouldn’t reach the Holy Grail with the Rebels.

“Thank God our luck changed, and it was a dream come true when I captained Cork to win the All Ireland title in 1992.”

After playing at the top for 17 years Sandie decided to call it a day in 1997 at the age of 33.

“When you play at the top level for a long time it really does take a great deal of commitment and I felt at that time I could no longer give it the dedication that was required to play at inter-county level.”

Two years later after giving Glen Rovers 26 years of incredible service she decided it was time to bow out.

Sandie was also a top-class basketball player and she helped the North Presentation School win the All-Ireland Cadet title in 1978.

At senior level, she helped Blarney win four National League titles and three National Cups, and she also played with Lee Strand in Tralee where she helped them win national league and cup honours in her three years with the Kerry club.

Her basketball skills were dazzling and despite being only 5' 6" she had the ability to wreak havoc on court.

Indeed, Sandie’s talent is still spoken about in basketball circles and to represent your country at the highest level of the sport speaks volumes of her skills.

Amazingly, throughout her playing career, Sandie mixed camogie and basketball and was never fazed by the demands.

The busiest week of her career came in October 1990.

Picture: Denis Minihane
Picture: Denis Minihane

On Sunday she played an All-Ireland club camogie semi-final with Glen Rovers in Derry and immediately after the game travelled to Boston to play three senior internationals with Ireland.

Having returned to Ireland on Friday she had only two days to prepare before lining out with Glen Rovers in the All Ireland camogie final.

Sandie once again showed her incredible commitment and skills as the Glen defeated St Paul’s in the decider.

In 2000 Sandie was presented with the Millennium award in Cork for her achievements in sport, an award she so richly deserved.

There are many legends in the sporting world on Leeside, but the name of Sandie Fitzgibbon will always be remembered with affection as one of Cork’s finest.

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.

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