GRAPHIC: Paul O'Connell beats Conor McGregor as most admired Irish athlete in 2015

The phenomenal popularity of Conor McGregor among young men aged between 18 and 35 is one of the key findings in the PSG Sport and Sponsorship Sentiment Index 2015.
GRAPHIC: Paul O'Connell beats Conor McGregor as most admired Irish athlete in 2015

Though Shane Long’s crucial goal against Germany in the Euro 2016 qualifiers is the most memorable moment, and the soccer team’s qualification for ne xt year’s Euros the greatest achievement, McGregor’s recent KO of Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight crown has boosted his profile hugely in this key demographic.

Mick O’Keeffe of PSG said yesterday: “Last year, Conor was in the top five, out of nowhere, and he was on the same score as AP McCoy and Henry Shefflin, but this year he’s gone to a whole new level and is third in the most admired sportsperson category, close behind Paul O’Connell and Katie Taylor, who are number one and two respectively.

“In terms of age groups, McGregor scores 19% among 18-24 year olds, and 20% among 25-34 year olds, then 6% among over 35s, and 2% over 45s. He’s the top scoring sportsperson among 18-34 year olds, which is very interesting; he’s the most popular sports star in that group.

“In golf, by comparison, Rory McIlroy is the most popular with 1% of 18-24 year olds, compared with 19% for McGregor.”

O’Keeffe pointed out the survey took place over the course of a week, with McGregor’s win in Las Vegas coming right in the middle of that period: “There can be a bit of a bias in terms of timing — a few years ago Leinster were quite low down in the team rankings despite winning the Heineken Cup; if the survey had taken place in June, soon after their win, they might have come higher.

“There tends to be a bias towards events taking place since the summer, though Ireland winning the Six Nations last spring still figures at the top of the charts.”

However, Ireland rugby captain Paul O’Connell scored highest in terms of popularity: “There’s a couple of things here — the popularity of rugby for the last few years is one, Brian O’Driscoll always scored high when he was still playing — but obviously O’Connell taking on the captaincy of Ireland in a year the team won the Six Nations drove him up the rankings.

“The fact that he was retiring, that he was leading the team at the World Cup, the way that ended for him with injury and the way he has carried himself since then, particularly, has all added to that.

“He was third on the list last year after Brian O’Driscoll and Katie Taylor, and all of those factors have fed into his getting to the top of the list.

“There is a raft of very young sportspeople on the way up — Katie Taylor is young and people are very fond of her, Rory McIlroy, a lot of the lads on the soccer team, Jonathan Sexton.

Latie Taylor
Latie Taylor

“GAA players tend to suffer because that’s quite regional — people in Donegal mightn’t be that interested in Henry Shefflin, for instance.”

The Sports Sentiment Index was carried out between December 10-15 by PSG Sponsorship in conjunction with leading research agency Ignite Research. The research was carried out among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 to 65.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up