Ten years on and Rena is as earnest as ever

Ten years ago, Rena Buckley was the youngest starter in Cork’s first Division 1 National League final, aged just 17.

Despite her youth, the Inniscarra dual star had already accumulated nine All-Ireland medals, 18 Munster, four senior county medals, one Interprovincial, one Munster Young Player of the Year and her first TG4/O’Neills All Star just by the end of the 2004 season.

Today she goes in search of her eighth Division 1 League title as first-timers Dublin look to dethrone Cork in Parnell Park (live on TG4, 3.45pm).

“I remember there was war at home because the video recorder didn’t record and my parents thought they’d missed their chance at seeing us on television,” laughs Buckley reflecting on the milestone a decade ago.

“We didn’t think we’d get there again but we’ve been very lucky with the players we’ve had, and with how loyal the players and management have been to Cork football,” said Buckley, who co-owns physiotherapy clinics in Macroom and Ballincollig with her business partner Brian O’Connell.

Today’s clash will be their seventh final in-a-row and their 10th in 11 years, and the Donoughmore midfielder is one of seven players still involved who started in the 2004 final against Mayo, present-day captain Briege Corkery, Ger O’Flynn, Bríd Stack, Angela Walsh, Valerie Mulcahy and Norita Kelly joining her.

They have only ever lost two finals — in 2004 against Mayo and 2012 against Monaghan — but Dublin will be favourites today having been unbeaten to-date, while coach Gregory McGonigle has the experience of having masterminded the Farney side’s win two years ago.

Buckley missed out on the drawn league encounter with McGonigle’s troops in March (2-10 apiece) due to camogie commitments, but she’s fully aware of their impressive performances.

“We won the All-Ireland last year by the skin of our teeth, the competition has definitely got better, and Dublin have proven they’re the in-form team.

“We didn’t have the best start to the league but some days it’s hard to understand from the sideline that when somebody is playing badly they’re still putting in a massive effort. But at least the work rate is where we want it,” said the dual star, who lost out on a potential league double when Cork bowed out in the camogie semi-final against Clare a fortnight ago.

“We only came fourth in the round-robin stages and Dublin been more consistent, but at the end of the day football is a simple game.

“Obviously their scoring power is a massive asset so we’ll have to limit that, but I reckon the drawn game against them brought us on a tonne. It’ll be a very quick game, if we slow it down any bit we’ll be caught out.”

Dublin have made just one change with Ciara Trant replacing goalkeeper Hannah Tyrell, unavailable due to Irish rugby commitments, while long-serving Denise Masterson will be hoping to win her first league medal.

Cork have named the same side that started against Kerry in the semi-final, but it’s likely Valerie Mulcahy will return despite being named on the bench. Wing-back Geraldine O’Flynn is doubtful having picked up an ankle injury and will be assessed prior to throw-in.

Armagh and Waterford open proceedings at Parnell Park in the Division 3 decider at 12.15pm, while Galway bid to win the Division 2 crown against Westmeath at 2pm, before Cork and Dublin kick off at 3.45pm. All games will be broadcast live on TG4.

DUBLIN: C Trant (St Brigid’s); S McGrath (Thomas Davis), S Furlong (St. Brigid’s), R Ruddy (Ballyboden St. Enda’s); S Goldrick (C) (Foxrock Cabinteely), S Finnegan (Fingallians), C Rowe (Clann Mhuire); D Masterson (Naomh Mearnóg), S McCaffrey (Clontarf); S Woods (Raheny), N McEvoy (St Sylvester’s), N Healy (St Brigid’s); L Davey (Skerries Harps), S Aherne (St Sylvester’s), L Peat (Parnell’s).

Subs: C O’Connor (Naomh Mearnóg), N Hyland (Ballyboden St. Enda’s), D Murphy (St. Brigid’s), O Leonard (St Maur’s), L Caffrey (Na Fianna), N Collins (Foxrock Cabinteely), M Mohan (Clontarf), L Collins (Na Fianna), E McDonagh, (Foxrock Cabinteely), M Lambe (Kilmacud Crokes), N Owens (St Sylvester’s), O Carey (Thomas Davis), A Barrett (Clann Mhuire), C Barrett (St Brigid’s), E Merrigan (Parnells).

CORK: M O’Brien (Clonakilty); R Phelan (Aghada), A Walsh (Inch Rovers), B Stack (Liscarroll); V Foley (St. Val’s), AM Walsh (Inch Rovers), G O’Flynn (Lisacarroll); R Buckley (Donoughmore), B Corkery (C) (St. Val’s); A Walsh (Inch Rovers), C O’Sullivan (Mourneabbey), O Farmer (Midelton); E Farmer (Aghada), D O’Sullivan (Mourneabbey), O Finn (Kinsale).

Subs: J O’Sullivan (St Val’s), V Mulcahy (Rockbán), G Kearney (Bride Rovers), E Scally (Éire Óg), M Ambrose (St Val’s), N Kelly (Liscarroll), A Barrett (Donoughmore), J Barry (Bride Rovers), R O’Sullivan (Mourneabbey), D O’Reilly (Liscarroll), C Creedon (St Vals), J O’Shea (Inch Rovers), ÁT O’Sullivan (Beara), M O’Callaghan (Mourneabbey), E Scally (Éire Óg).

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