Rena Buckley: ‘I am absolutely blessed. I have always loved the games’

Rena Buckley with her parents Tim and Helen Buckley when she was presented with a special achievement award.

Modest to the end.

When reminding Rena Buckley yesterday afternoon that she’s the first camogie player, footballer or hurler to pocket 18 All-Ireland senior medals, the 31-year old’s reply is that she was lucky the ball bounced favourably for her.

Considering 10 All Star awards and 14 national league medals were also achieved during a glittering inter-county career which spanned 15-years, luck had very little to do with it.

The first person in history to skipper their county to All-Ireland glory in both codes, we’ve seen the last of Rena Buckley in a Cork shirt. The decision to retire from the inter-county scene was a difficult one to arrive at, but the correct choice, nonetheless.

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Bottom line; she’s ready to start a new chapter in her life.

Having been part of the Cork senior ladies football squad since 2003 and the camogie set-up since 2004, it’s time, she says, to shift focus elsewhere.

“It was always my dream to play with Cork, in both football and camogie. I was so lucky to have realised that dream. It didn’t disappoint. It has been a fantastic experience for me, but it can’t go on forever. I just feel like now is a good time to depart. That is it, essentially,” Buckley said yesterday.

I have been very lucky over the years, injuries were never really a problem. I dedicated all my twenties to GAA and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I just feel it is time to begin a new chapter. I want the chance to give more of my time to the people in my life.

She added: “I was mulling about it over Christmas. Three weeks ago, I knew I had to make a choice and so I was fully certain at that stage. It will be a change. For the last number of years, though, I have known that change is coming.

“You would be mentally prepared for that. Now is the time for me to make that change. I’ll always be involved in ladies football and camogie, but just in a different capacity, now. I’m happy with that.”

Buckley didn’t get involved with the ladies footballers in 2017, largely owing to the part-time Masters she was studying in UCD, and also contemplated stepping back from the camogie.

“I would have had thoughts ahead of the 2017 season as to whether I would commit for 2017. I was given the opportunity to captain the Cork camogie team. That was a huge honour for me. I didn’t want to turn it down. It worked out lovely.

“I can be content leaving that I did my best in 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed the year. It was a nice end to the year and please God, Cork can go on from that. I want to wish both Cork teams the best in 2018.”

Last September’s 0-10 to 0-9 camogie final win over Kilkenny, for which Buckley was at full-back, brought her All-Ireland medal haul to 18. She started and finished 15 of these All-Ireland final victories.

She was an integral member of Cork’s five-in-a-row (2005-09) and six-in-a-row (2011-16) on the ladies football front, as well as three occasions where the county’s camogie side managed back-to-back O’Duffy Cup successes.

“I am absolutely blessed. I have always played GAA because I love it and I love being part of it. I love playing the games. To have been successful at them has been the icing on the cake.

I am so grateful for all the friends I have made, for all the enjoyment my family got from it and all the people who put work into me. Obviously, I put in a lot of work myself, but so too did an awful lot of players, management and county board officers. We had a great group of players. It was brilliant to be part of it.

“The number of medals is something new, but it was the bounce of the ball for me, really - the year I was born, the place I was born. It has been a huge honour.”

The Inniscarra native concluded: “Anyone who has been involved in sport gains a lot from it. That is really obvious today by the messages that have been coming through. I am really, really appreciative.”

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