18-time All-Ireland winner is one of best Cork ever produced
By Jennifer O'Leary
RENA Buckley can handle herself in a sing-song just as easily as she does on football and camogie fields.
She was always a dead-cert in singing a song on the return journey home following a victory – and there have been many of those over the years, as her record 18 All-Ireland medals highlight.
Her song of choice was always the popular ‘The Bold Thady Quill’, and her Berrings accent certainly came to the fore as she belted it out with conviction.
We would all join in for the chorus.
‘For … rambling, for roving, for football, or sporting….’
Great memories of a great player and person, and after her retirement from the inter-county scene it made me realise how lucky I am to have had Rena as a team-mate for so long.
‘D’you know,’ as she said time and time again, marrying the words together perfectly in a Cork lilt, she’ll be remembered as the greatest ladies’ GAA player of all-time. Rightly so.
There are about 7.6 billion people in the world, covering every corner and facet of the globe. Out of those 7.6 billion people there may be just a handful of people who make a lasting impression on you – a person you grow to admire, look up to and even learn from.
Step forward, Rena.
When it came to Cork camogie, I grew up with her, shared some of my highest highs and lowest lows, she was a team-mate, a leader, an inspiration and a friend.
She’s also unique, that rare dual player that we love here in Cork and have produced so many over the years. She won 11 All-Ireland football titles and seven All-Ireland camogie crowns. Incredible.
Cork’s loss will be Inniscarra camogie and Donoughmore football’s gain.
And it’s hard to believe that she is only 31 years old but she packed so much into her inter-county career.
She made her first appearance on the Cork senior camogie panel when she was only 16 and I remember it so well because with any newcomer, there was a heightened awareness of change and youth.
I was a few years older than Rena at the time and I remember having a conversation with her a few years on about how she dealt with the step up to the ranks. While she felt nervous and a pressure, it was more an overwhelming feeling of excitement to be playing with idols like Mary O’Connor, Fiona O’Driscoll, and the Dunleas, who in our eyes were like gods of the camogie game.
And as the years passed we were often matched up with against each other in the half-back and half-forward lines, battling it out to impress management and teammates. It was never an easy task when Rena was marking you.
She had a great skill of knowing the right time to dispossess you and she never panicked on the ball. A clean and sticky back, she was a fantastic team player who cleared her area of the field with a purpose and accuracy.
Like me, she was highly competitive but in a controlled manner.
We would regularly play practice games at training, while working on our game plan, and occasionally you would have a chat with your marker – but not with Rena! She was always completely focused on the training session, taking in the whole practice and I guess this is one of the reasons why she is so great; she is a brilliant listener.
If you ever have the pleasure of talking to Rena, you will notice that she will give you her undivided attention. When asking her a question she will think deeply about her answer, it doesn’t just come out flippantly.
She’s honest and interesting. She will quickly deflect attention away from her by changing the subject. She isn’t a fan of the hype and limelight. She certainly won’t like how I called her a legend in this piece, but believe me, she is. There’s even a song titled ‘Rena Ni Bhuachalla’, written by her boyfriend’s dad, Paddy Collins. That’s the high esteem she is held within by all who are close to her in her life.
The immense pride I feel to have played with Cork for so many years is elevated even further when I reflect back knowing I have lined out alongside a player of Rena’s calibre.
It’s hard not to feel humbled knowing you shared a little in her iconic sporting career. I say this because we will probably never see the likes of her again.
With all the distractions of today, the toll a dual player places on the body and the endless possibilities in sport to choose from, there will never be a female Gaelic Games’ player who will achieve what Rena has achieved.
Ten All-Stars in both codes, captain fantastic in both county camogie and football, joint Irish Sportswoman of the Year in 2015, it truly was a remarkable career.
There will only ever be one Rena Buckley but we can all learn from her and put her mindset, actions and attitude towards achieving a goal into tasks and challenges we set for ourselves.
In summary, here are a few of the components necessary to reach the top in sport, as Rena did time and time again:
•Show pride in the Cork jersey.
•Always display a serious work ethic in work and play.
•Believe that nothing is impossible.
•Make great friends and bonds with players on your team both on and off the field.
•Establish and nurture a respectful and positive relationship with your managers and coaches.
•Try and strike a balance with your work, sport and social life. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, the social life outside of sport must be put last.
•Be humble and modest.
•Take nothing for granted.
•Appreciate your club and how they have moulded you into the player you are today.
•Have a killer instinct.
•Never change who you really are but work on the things that need improving.
How many of these do you live by on a daily basis in sport? It’s never too late to work on them.