Briege Corkery v Rena Buckley: The Echo Rebel Legends semi-finals

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
Briege Corkery v Rena Buckley: The Echo Rebel Legends semi-finals

Vote for your favourite Rebel Legends each day, with the final this Thursday.

BRIEGE Corkery or Rena Buckley? 

The Echo has been running a fun contest since February 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, with the final on Thursday.

We started with 32 contenders and we're now left with four, which means there are extremely hard calls to be made this week. That's certainly the case here, former team-mates in camogie and ladies football, warriors on the field and affable off it.

Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley winning the All-Ireland in 2016. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley winning the All-Ireland in 2016. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

There's no wrong answer here but when you vote you'll be entered into a draw for a €200 voucher.

Here's the case for each of the Leeside stars and keep checking here for 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.

RENA BUCKLEY

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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