It’s the end of an era for us. Rena hanging up the inter-county boots is a sad day.
I texted her yesterday morning. ‘Well, it’s official. I’m very sad!’
And I am. That’s how I feel. But as she said herself, she has her boyfriend, her family and other commitments.
My relationship with Rena dates back to the late 90s, when we first started training together with the Cork footballers. There was always a gang of us knocking about together but there was something special about the fact that myself and Rena played dual together for so long.
From 2014-2016 it seemed that there was hardly a picture taken without Rena and myself together.
We always went to functions together and our parents are great friends now as well.
There was so much external focus on numbers and the number of medals we won but it was never about competition as far as we were concerned – and it was never about those numbers.
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We were great friends, with the height of admiration for each other, and we’d have very similar personalities.
We just wanted what was good for the team and to do the best that we could.
Rena always respected everybody else on the team as well and she’ll be a huge loss to Cork.
There were some moments I’ll never forget – like the National League football final against Galway in 2015. She kicked a massive winning score at the end and another phenomenal effort in the first half, taking the ball on from 45 yards out and putting it over the bar.
There was a player of the match performance against Dublin in the 2016 All-Ireland final too but I could list so many more moments.
The thing about Rena was that she always did the smart thing at the right time, and did it so well.
She never wanted to be the ‘fancy player’. To win so much as a dual player was a huge ask for Rena, but she was completely professional in everything she did. She took great care of herself, and worked extremely hard in training and during matches.
What’s more, she respected everybody – management, opponents, everybody.
Running a business in Macroom at the same time couldn’t have been easy either but she’s as successful at that as she was in her dual career. She did her Masters in UCD while still playing dual, and finished that last year while serving as Cork camogie captain. Think about the demands taking on just one of those alone!
She’s a fierce nice person too, genuine and humble. Given all she’s achieved, she could go around with her head in the clouds but doesn’t. And she understands and realises that without the other girls, she wouldn’t be as lucky to be where she is now.
She could stand up for herself too but she always thought before speaking, and made sure she said the right thing.
If I was making a mistake alongside her at midfield, she’d be sure to let you know but you need somebody like that to drive you on.
She enjoyed herself too, and was always able to have the bit of craic at training and after matches. She’d belt out the Bold Thaidy Quill on the bus home too, her favourite song, well able to sing it too!
Without a doubt, she’s one of the best role models in Ireland but hasn’t received the credit she’s deserved sometimes.
Last year, not getting the RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year was a bit disappointing. She hit a record of 18 All-Ireland senior medals that might never be hit again. It would have been lovely for her to have picked up that title.
But we know ourselves in Cork how much of a sporting hero and a legend she is.
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