By Paul O’Neill
Rena Buckley is preparing for another hectic schedule of Championship action - with both camogie and ladies football fixtures this weekend.
Cork star Buckley is one of the few dual players currently involved at the highest level in both codes.
But the commitment she has shown to playing the respective games for senior Rebel County sides over the last nine years has paid dividends - including four camogie and seven ladies football All-Ireland medals.
That haul includes four All-Ireland doubles in the same year and Cork are hotly tipped to complete another in three months’ time.
Buckley and Cork will launch their quest for more All-Ireland glory over the coming four days as the respective Championship campaigns get under way. She will face two games in as many days but she is relishing the prospect of the challenges that lie ahead.
“Things can get quite busy for me with all of the games I play and training I do but I am well used to it now and I thoroughly enjoy it,” she said.
“The respective management teams co-operate quite well regarding what they expect me to do in relation to training and that helps.
“When it comes to dual players in general, the governing bodies for camogie and ladies football have come together more in recent years to try and accommodate us better in terms of fixture clashes and so on. However I feel more could be done and hopefully they will get around to it before long.”
"I feel more could be done (on fixture clashes) and hopefully they will get around to it before long" - Rena Buckley
Cork will begin their bid to regain their Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Camogie title when they meet Tipperary at The Ragg in Group 2 on Saturday.
However while Cork are fancied by many followers of the game to end Wexford's reign as holders, Buckley believes the Championship will turn out to be one of the most open for several years.
"When you look at the sides who will be taking part in the Championship, you could make a case for many of them going on and winning it.
“Obviously we are hopeful of being there or thereabouts come the end but while we won the National League last month, we have not got carried away with that.
“Last season we won the League too but came up short in the Championship. Looking at some of the other teams, it would be foolish to write Wexford off just because they have lost a large chunk of last year's squad and have changed manager twice since the final.
"They still have a very strong and experienced squad and will not want to give up the All-Ireland. Kilkenny could worth watching as they have progressed a lot in recent years, Galway are rarely too far away and Clare have been making strides.”
Once Buckley finishes with the Tipp game she will turn her full attention to the Cork footballers' showdown with Kerry the following day in the opening round of the TG4 Munster Championship.
The game will be a repeat of last year's All-Ireland final which Cork won and it will be their first outing since Juliet Murphy announced her retirement last week.
And Buckley insists the legendary Murphy is missed.
“Juliet was a fantastic servant and is a big loss because she was such a talented player and a massive inspiration for everyone who was part of the set-up,” she admitted.
“It is strange to be getting ready for the Championship without her but in a way we have got used to her not playing as she had not been involved in the National League.
“While you never like to lose any players, we are fortunate that we have quite a decent squad with lots of options.
“As for the Championship, we are not looking past the Kerry game. No doubt they will be keen to make amends for losing to us in the All-Ireland final and I think they are genuine contenders again this year.
“I fancy Laois and Monaghan - who were the only sides to beat us in the League - will be in the mix too while it would be wrong to dismiss Mayo, who look like they are starting to recapture some of their old form.”
Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Camogie Senior Championship first round:
Group 1: Clare v Derry (Donaghmore Ashbourne, 3.0), Galway v Kilkenny (Athenry, 1.0).
Group 2: Dublin v Offaly (Crumlin, 3.0), Tipperary v Cork (The Ragg, 1.0).
TG4 Ulster Ladies Football Senior Championship semi-final: Donegal v Monaghan (Donaghmore, 7.0).
TG4 Leinster Ladies Football Senior Championship quarter-final: Meath v Westmeath (Summerhill, 2.0).
TG4 Munster Ladies Football Senior Championship first round: Kerry v Cork (Caherciveen, 2.0).
TG4 Ulster Ladies Football Senior Championship semi-final: Armagh v Tyrone (Inniskeen, 7.0).