Gaelic Games has overtaken soccer as Ireland’s favourite sport, according to a major national sports survey.
The Teneo Sport and Sponsorship Index is a 1,000-person nationally representative survey with quotas imposed across gender, region, age, and social class. The research examines the Irish general public’s attitudes towards sport and their sporting heroes.
Soccer came home as “Ireland’s favourite sport” for eight consecutive years from 2010 when this research was first undertaken. But Gaelic Games has claimed top spot in 2018. The changing of the guard is due to a combination of factors. It is a culmination of a steady decrease in the popularity of soccer in six years from 26% in 2013, 24% in 2014, 21% in both 2015 and 2016, 20% in 2017 and now 19%.
While the popularity of Gaelic Games (football, ladies football, hurling, and camogie) has enjoyed a significant jump over the last 12 months gaining four percentage points as it moved from 17% in 2017 to 21% this year.
One major contributing factor has been Gaelic Games popularity amongst females strengthening, mirroring the overall popularity jump from 17% to 21%.
However, it is not all doom and gloom after a difficult year for soccer as it remains the favourite sport amongst males (28%) while 44% of respondents said they liked or were interested in the sport.
And after one of the most memorable years ever for Irish rugby, the sport itself is in third place on 14% while 43% of respondents said they liked or were interested in it.
However rugby came out on top in other categories — Joe Schmidt’s team was named Team of the Year (43%) ahead of the women’s hockey side (17%) and Limerick’s All-Ireland winning senior hurler team (8%).
Some of the regional variations produced interesting results in that latter category. For example, in Connacht/Ulster a whopping 62% ranked Schmidt’s side as the team of the year while in Dublin both the Dublin senior footballers and the Leinster rugby team pushed the Limerick hurlers out of the top four.
Interestingly the senior All Ireland winners in football, ladies football, hurling, and camogie polled 19% of the vote between them.
A sizeable 40% of respondents rated the win against the All Blacks as the greatest sporting achievement of the year, with the Grand Slam success at number two on 15% while the women’s hockey side’s World Cup final appearance was third on 7%.
Katie Taylor is Ireland’s Most Admired athlete again, on 19%, ahead of Johnny Sexton 11% and Cork rowers, Paul and Gary O’Donovan on 10% Conor McGregor, who came out on top in this category in 2016 and second in 2017, polled 2% and was outside the top 10.
Teneo managing director, Kelli O’Keeffe, said: “2018 really was a remarkable year for Irish sport. We’ve seen everything from a rugby Grand Slam, to world championship golds in boxing and rowing, to success on the athletics track and a World Cup final appearance by an Irish team.
“There was undoubtedly an abundance of highlights to get the Irish public talking at international level. Joe Schmidt’s team and Graham Shaw’s side captured the imagination with their outstanding performances. To see a team who reached a World Cup final not getting the nod as Team of the Year just shows the impact rugby had on the public consciousness through 2018.
“It should also be borne in mind the research was carried out in the immediate aftermath of the November internationals so the win against the All Blacks would have been very fresh in people’s minds.
“The excitement generated by a revamped hurling championship will certainly also have boosted the popularity of Gaelic Games in 2018 and people are really looking forward to the All-Ireland Championships next year. Not surprisingly though, given the successes enjoyed by our rugby team this year we’re excited to see what they can achieve in Japan.”
This is the ninth year of the TSSI and the research was carried out between Friday November 30 and Friday December 7.