The Echo Rebel Legends final: Rena Buckley v Sandie Fitzgibbon

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The Echo Rebel Legends final: Rena Buckley v Sandie Fitzgibbon

Vote for your favourite Rebel Legend today to help decide the winner.

WE'RE down to the last two contenders: Rena Buckley and Sandie Fitzgibbon.

The Echo has been running a fun contest over the last six weeks where you vote for your favourite Cork stars since 1970 to pick the winners in each round until we're left with an overall Rebel Legend.

We started with 32 contenders and we're now left with just two, both women, which reflects the interest in and strength of female sport on Leeside. 

Sandie Fitzgibbon's brilliance as a camogie player and basketballer mean she's polled some of the most impressive tallies in the previous rounds, while Rena Buckley's magnificent record as a dual All-Ireland winner and All-Star has garnered huge support too.

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 check back in on Saturday morning to find out the winner.

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.

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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