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16 for 16: The most important Irish athletes of the last 100 years - Briege Corkery

The Cork GAA star has no fewer than 16 All-Ireland titles to her name.

BRIEGE CORKERY IS the subject of the 15th in a series of articles focusing on the most important Irish sportspeople of the last 100 years. The list includes GAA players, Olympians, boxers, golfers and more who dared to dream.

Briege Corkery Corkery in the 2014 All-Ireland football final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

I’m not into these individual awards, I’d prefer it as a team thing. If the girls around you aren’t playing well, you’re not going to. That’s why it’s a team sport. I think I was a bit shocked (to win the 2015 Players’ Player of the Year Award) to be honest. I thought I did grand but didn’t think I stood out as a great player this year. It’s nice to be voted for by your peers.”

- Briege Corkery, The42, December 2015

Briege Corkery was born on 16 December 1986 and was introduced to Gaelic football at an early age through her local GAA club St. Val’s in Aghinagh.

From the age of eight, it was clear that Corkery was a cut above her classmates and her talent was nurtured by her headmaster at Rusheen National School, Gerard Coakley, who watched her excel at Sciath na Scol from second class.

“I don’t think I even realised just how good she was early on,” says Coakley, “and even though she was the youngest player on the team she wasn’t just a member of the panel, she was a real leader scoring goals from corner forward.

“I was astonished by the fearless ability she had to get out and get the job done from so young.”

Corkery started out dominating camogie matches for Rusheen but was able to call herself a bona fide dual player before starting fourth class. She took to schools football with typical aplomb and Coakley remembers a competition where his young star was unduly penalised for being too good.

“We were playing a blitz competition for mixed teams and they had this rule where the girls could pick the ball up off the ground with their hands while the young lads had to use their toe.

“Briege was penalised three times in the first half for picking the ball up with her hands because the referee couldn’t believe she was so much better than the boys,” he says.

It wasn’t just Gaelic games at which Corkery was besting all her rivals. At the age of 11 she turned up for a schools cross-country race with her arm in a cast having broken it.

Coakley remembers telling her she couldn’t possibly take part but the youngster insisted she had her parents’ permission and that she’d be fine. Not only did Corkery compete, but she won the race by 100 yards.

Briege Corkery Corkery is equally adept in both codes. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

What stood out for anyone who watched Corkery as an underage player was her determination and work-rate. She’d think nothing of going to football training with her club in the morning, turning up for the Cork underage development squad in the afternoon, and then playing a camogie match that evening.

It’s that work-rate that has helped her become — alongside Rena Buckley — the most decorated GAA player of all time.

In 2003, two years after making her debut, Corkery experienced an All-Ireland final for the first time when she came on as a substitute in Cork’s senior camogie final defeat at the hands of Tipperary.

By 2005 though, she was an All-Ireland champion, beating the same opposition in the decider. Two weeks later she claimed the double — this time starting at wing-back rather than wing-forward — when the Rebels beat Galway.

In a remarkable era of dominance across both codes, Corkery would add three more doubles to her collection before the first decade of the new millennium was over.

Source: RTÉ Sport/YouTube

 

And she is showing no sign of letting up any time soon. Last weekend Corkery played her role in helping the footballers stay on course for an 11th title in 12 years with four crucial points and, on Sunday, will line out for the camogie team as they look to secure a third O’Duffy Cup in succession when they take on Kilkenny.

While Corkery had to wait until 2013 to win her first senior county title with St. Val’s, it’s just another award on top of 16 All-Irelands and 14 National League titles with Cork.

She may not put much stock in individual awards but she has collected 15 All-Stars across both codes along the way and became just the sixth camogie player in history to be given the Texaco Player of the Year Award in 2008.

At the age of just 29, who knows how many more titles could come her way?

In association with Allianz Insurance, we’ve been profiling the 16 most important Irish athletes of the last 100 years.  Allianz Insurance — The world belongs to those who dare.

About the author:

The42 Team

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