Roy Keane v Sandie Fitzgibbon: 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
Roy Keane v Sandie Fitzgibbon: The Echo Rebel Legends semi-finals

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

ROY Keane or Sandie Fitzgibbon? 

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 because while Roy Keane excelled on the world stage, Sandie Fitzgibbon's brilliance as a camogie player and basketball mean she's polled some of the most impressive tallies in the previous rounds...

There's no wrong answer, it's about your favourite rather than picking the best, 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.

ROY KEANE

WHAT is it that can be said about Roy Keane that hasn’t already been said?

The short answer is nothing, but a reiteration of what has been said about him perhaps underlines just what a force of nature he was.

In the public consciousness, the game that sums up the Mayfield native is the 1999 Champions League semi-final second leg against Juventus. Despite having picked up a booking that would rule him out of the final, Keane was the driving force as United came from 2-0 down to win 3-2, scoring the first goal in Turin.

While Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson are not close, the manager’s description of his captain’s performance perfectly summed him up.

“Pounding over every blade of grass, competing as if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him. I felt it was an honour to be associated with such a player.”

Ryan Giggs’ view of the player he played with for 12 years was in a similar vein.

“You never felt you were beaten when Keaney was in your team,” he said.

He never threw in the towel. I don’t think any of the rest of us were less determined to win than Keaney, but what makes him different is the way he gets it across, his anger if you like.

“More than any other player I’ve seen, he affects players around him.”

Roy Keane battling Italy in New York in the 1994 World Cup. Picture: Eddie O'Hare.
Roy Keane battling Italy in New York in the 1994 World Cup. Picture: Eddie O'Hare.

Of course, you could say that it was easy for people associated with Manchester United to talk highly of such a talisman but Patrick Vieira, who locked horns with Keane for nine seasons in the Premier League when he was with Arsenal, offered a similarly glowing testimonial.

“What I like about him is the fact that he wouldn’t talk; he’d take the kick, he wouldn’t say anything, then, on the next one, he’d give it to you and he would expect, of course, that you say nothing.

“He’s not the kind of player who talks a lot. So he’ll take the kick, he will give back, but I like him — he’s quite fair.”

Eoin O’Callaghan’s new book, Keane: Origins, outlines how Keane’s attitude remained as clear-headed and impenetrable from his days with Cobh Ramblers, when he was on a FÁS football course, through his early years at Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough.

Such a player could only thrive in the environment which surrounded him at Manchester United and it’s not overstating things to say that the Republic of Ireland wouldn’t have qualified for the 2002 World Cup without him. How they would have done if he hadn’t departed is a moot point but doesn’t dull his achievements.

It says much about Keane’s force of personality that so many people became Sunderland fans when he became the club’s manager in 2006. We’ll leave the last word to another genius full of personality, Eric Cantona.

“He was the best in midfield; he could play everywhere. He could play the holding role and be defensive, but then he could suddenly burst forward and score goals.

“He was so intelligent in how he played the game and let me tell you, it felt good to have him behind me for four seasons. He’d win the ball and then give it to me. And what a character!”

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.

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