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Vote for your favourite Rebel Legends each day.
Vote for your favourite Rebel Legends each day.
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Sonia O'Sullivan v Brian Corcoran: Vote for your favourite Rebel Legend

Sonia O'Sullivan or Brian Corcoran? 

The Echo is running a fun contest until March 11 where you can vote for your favourite Cork stars since 1970 and pick who progresses in each round until we're left with an overall Rebel Legend winner.

We started with 32 contenders and are now into the last 16, with another tough choice for you to make. This poll will be open until 8am on Tuesday morning.

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Here's the case for each of the Leeside stars and keep checking  for updates on the winners in each round.

SONIA O'SULLIVAN

IT’S not an exact science, but a handy rule of thumb is that the greats are known by just one name.

If it happens to be that that’s the case among your own, but not across a wider area, there’s no shame in that, but if a single moniker is a national identifier, then you are certainly in the stratosphere.

So it is with Sonia, and don’t even pretend that you need to be told a surname.

 Irish Olympian and 5,000m silver medallist Sonia O'Sullivan with the Olympic Flame. Picture: Brian Lawless/SPORTSFILE

Irish Olympian and 5,000m silver medallist Sonia O'Sullivan with the Olympic Flame. Picture: Brian Lawless/SPORTSFILE

She was only 21 when she knocked five seconds off the world 5,000m indoor record in 1991 and such was her versatility that in that same year she won gold in the 1,500m at the World Student Games in Sheffield and picked up silver in the 3,000m.

In 1992, she set six national records between the 800m and 5,000m, including five in the space of 11 days in August of that year.

Part of such a burst was probably fuelled by disappointment at a fourth-placed finish in the 3,000m at the Olympics, but time was on her side.

There was a real sense that she was building towards the Atlanta Games with silver in the 1,500m at the 1993 World Championships, gold in the 3,000m at the 1994 European Championships and then gold in the 5,000m at the worlds in 1995.

While the 3,000m had been taken off the Olympic roster, she was in good form in both the 1,500m and 5,000m in 1996 and the scheduling looked kind to allow a real tilt at both.

The heats went to plan in the 5,000m, but a stomach upset led to her failing to finish and she was still below her best as she didn’t make the 1,500m final.

Such a blow could have been fatal, but it only improved her resolve. In 1998, she entered the short- and long-course events at the World Cross-Country Championships in Marrakesh and won both.

When the 1,500m and 5,000m were scheduled for the same day in that year’s European Championships, she traded up to the 10,000m and won that along with the 5,000m.

The birth of her daughter Ciara kept her sidelined for much of 1999, but she was back training within a fortnight, ready to target the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

There, she would finally win the medal she so richly deserved, Ireland’s first in track and field since John Treacy in 1984.

In September of that year, she was narrowly pipped by Romania’s Gabriela Szabo as she took silver, setting a new national record in the 5,000m at the age of 30, one which still stands.

A month later, she made her marathon debut, winning in Dublin.

An Olympic medal didn’t mean a swansong, either, as she continued to compete, winning silver in the 5,000m and 10,000 and the 2002 worlds and she took part in her fourth Olympics in 2004 in Athens. 

While she finished last in the 5,000m as she suffered from illness, the ovation from the crowd summed up the regard in which she was held, both at home and abroad.

While it is more than a decade since she has seriously competed, she still holds seven Irish records. They may be beaten in time, but the bronze statue of her erected in her native Cobh in 2015 ensures that she and her achievements will never be forgotten.

BRIAN CORCORAN

PEOPLE don’t exaggerate when they link the great Erin’s Own and Cork hurler to Christy Ring though both played in completely different eras and it’s impossible to compare accordingly.

But, there’s no doubt Corcoran was one of the greatest hurlers of his generation, a player comfortable in defence or attack and possessing all the skills.

Whether it was on a boiling hot day in Thurles or a rain-soaked Croke Park, Corcoran had the temperament and ability to cope with all conditions and all comers.

He was comfortable on either side with a left-hand that was like a magnet when the ball came his direction.

Corcoran’s anticipation and reading of the play helped him also stand out above the crowd and he also had time in possession, the sure sign of greatness.

Little wonder then that when it came to selecting teams of the greats Corcoran’s name always featured.

Although generally recognised as an imposing centre-back and a colossus of the number 6 role, Corcoran was one of those rare treasures who could fill any position.

And when the need was great, he wasn’t slow in venturing forward to land inspirational points from almost impossible angles, witness his score from the left touchline in the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh during an Erin’s Own county final triumph.

Cork would later benefit from his talents as a forward, when Corcoran came out of retirement to play in the attack in 2004, helping the Rebels to the All-Ireland that season and again the following year.

 Corcoran came back to lift two more All-Irelands. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Corcoran came back to lift two more All-Irelands. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

As a hurler, Corcoran was always destined for greatness as those with a keen eye testify backs in his under-age days with Erin’s Own and in school with Midleton CBS.

Not too many 15-year-olds come under the radar of the county minor hurling management, but Corcoran was different.

Not only was he included in their championship panel, but Corcoran made the starting 15 in a team, which reached the Munster final and destroyed Tipperary in the process.

And while disappointment was his lot as a midfielder in the All-Ireland minor final loss to Kilkenny, it was the first of many, many journeys to Croker, where Corcoran would savour several days in the sun.

What tends to be overlooked, when discussing Corcoran’s hurling exploits, is that he was just as an accomplished in football.

In his last game as a minor, at a time, when he was an established dual player, Corcoran gave one of the great full-back displays in Cork’s narrow victory over Mayo in a tight All-Ireland final back in 1991.

Three years later he added to his growing medal haul by helping Cork win the All-Ireland U21 title and naturally, Corcoran had come under the watchful eyes of the senior set-up, not just in hurling, but in football, too.

His senior football debut in 1993 led to another day out on the biggest day in the football calendar, but Derry won a controversial decider against 14-man Cork.

A Sam Maguire Cup success eluded Corcoran during his stint with the footballers, but his legacy with the hurlers will prevail for generations to come.

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