Time out: GAA star Rena Buckley on life after inter-county playing

“There’s more flexibility in terms of going to weddings and important things like that. I can’t say I’ve met everyone loads in the last couple of months but at the same time, I’ve a little more flexibility.”

Time out: GAA star Rena Buckley on life after inter-county playing

Irene Feighan

In the same way an apple tree doesn’t strain to grow apples, top GAA player Rena Buckley naturally grew into a top-class athlete. “It was never a conscious decision. I’ve always loved sport and always will play as much of it as I can. I would have been very much aware that I would be really happy when I’m playing — it would have been something I would have done without much hassle,” says the 31-year-old Inniscarra woman who recently retired from inter-county playing.

Though one of the most decorated female players in GAA circles — 18 All-Ireland titles in football and camogie — she refuses to stand apart from her teammates. “I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve been part of exceptional teams. I haven’t been the best player in every team or anything close to it... There’s a lot of luck in terms of winning as well.”

Buckley is aware life beyond the pitch is multi-faceted — “there are loads of other things that make a person”.

“I would know very little about music, for example. I’ve managed to go to very few concerts over my life.”

But these days there is time for concerts and more — her boyfriend Páidí Collins plays hurling with Freemount.

“I was aware that this was a decision that had to be made at some time. It wasn’t an injury — it was my decision,” she says.

Though busy with her physiotherapy practice in Macroom, she’s enjoying having time for friends and significant events.

“There’s more flexibility in terms of going to weddings and important things like that. I can’t say I’ve met everyone loads in the last couple of months but at the same time, I’ve a little more flexibility.”

But sport will remain a central focus. “While I don’t want to commit as much time to the inter-county championship, I will certainly remain involved with my local clubs. Both the GAA and physical activities are lifelong parts of my life.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Rena Buckley is an ambassador for Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps, Ireland’s biggest summer camps for children

What shape are you in?

I’m not as fit as I was this time last year because I’m not playing with Cork, but at the same time I’m in pretty decent shape. I’m doing something most days a week. I play camogie twice a week with Inniscarra. And I play football with Donoughmore — I try and meet them once a week.

I might do a little bit of weight training as well, a half-hour once or twice a week.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

For breakfast, I have a bowl of porridge with fruits and nuts and I’d have a boiled egg. I take a spoon of cod liver oil as well.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Tea and biscuits — the chocolate ones are my favourites.

What would keep you awake at night?

Sometimes a bit of work stress. I run a physiotherapy business in Macroom. Most of my sports-based clients would be GAA players.

How do you relax?

Chatting, exercising, or reading. I try to avoid social media.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Michael D Higgins for his conversation, Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh for his stories, and Sonia O’Sullivan because she is someone I really look up to. When I was younger I used to do a lot of athletics.

What’s your favourite smell?

In the summer time, it’s the smell of cut grass. The perfume I’m wearing at the moment is Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I’m happy enough. Maybe I could be a small bit taller — I’m about 5ft 7in.

When is the last time you cried?

At a funeral about six weeks ago. In general I’m not a big crier.

What traits do you least like in others?

I don’t like when people are fake.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

I tend to cut across people. I do it all the time, it’s really rude. It’s excitement — I just have to get the news out.

Do you pray?

I do. I would be a regular Mass-goer.

What would cheer up your day?

If someone said something nice or did something nice. Recently, a patient asked me if I was busy and I said I was and that I hadn’t even time to go to the shop. She came back with a bottle of milk — it was the loveliest thing.

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