More than a year after retiring, former Leinster and Ireland rugby star Brian O’Driscoll has retained his number one position as the country’s most admired sports personality, while Ireland captain Paul O’Connell (above), stretchered off in the Rugby World Cup game against France in Cardiff at the weekend, made most gains in admiration for Irish sports stars.
The latest study by sponsorship consultants Onside shows O’Driscoll got 17 per cent of the votes, ahead of Olympic gold medalist Katie Taylor on 11 per cent, up one point as the Bray boxer prepares for next year’s games in Rio. But it was Paul O’Connell who stood out as the Irish sports star making most gains in Irish public admiration across the year to date.
O’Connell’s position was converted by Onside into an extra 250,000 Irish public ‘avid fans’ of the rugby hero this year. Three in 10 surveyed singled out a rugby star, with the collective of soccer stars next in line at 12 per cent. The other sports personality showing gains was UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor – now in the top 10 for the first time in sixth place.
McGregor was two spots behind current Irish soccer team assistant manager Roy Keane and a fifth placed Rory McIlroy. Onside’s John Trainor says the study proved particularly interesting when segmented by age, with 18-24 year olds scoring Katie Taylor and Roy Keane highest. Footballer Robbie Keane was in seventh position, with a two point gain.
The top 10 is closed out by three stars that have completed the active participation phase of their careers – Kilkenny hurler Henry Shefflin, Munster Rugby’s Ronan O’Gara and runner Sonia O’Sullivan. Outside of sport, the study found that Ryan Tubridy retained the top spot as Ireland’s most admired TV and radio personality, with 12 per cent support.
Gay Byrne enjoys a resurgence in appeal as he ranks second to Tubridy, ahead of Miriam O’Callaghan in third place. TV3 current affairs host Vincent Browne and Today FM breakfast presenter Ian Dempsey also made strong gains in the latest research.