Rob Heffernan’s World Championship gold in the 50km walk was the greatest Irish sporting achievement of 2013.
The 35-year old made up for a decade of near misses when topping the rostrum at the World Championships in August and his Moscow victory has now been voted as the outstanding sporting feat of the past 12 months.
The Cork native attained 12% in the Pembroke Communication Sports Sentiment Index, edging out champion National Hunt jockey AP McCoy whose 4,000th career win aboard Mountain Tunes last month garnered 11%.
Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning women’s rugby team, the Dublin footballers and Clare hurlers all polled 9%.
“Having endured so many hard luck stories over the years and a number of fourth place finishes, everyone celebrated Rob Heffernan’s gold in Moscow,” noted Pembroke Communications’ MD Mick O’Keefe.
“Heffernan’s story and indeed of his wife and coach Marian, who was pregnant at the time, really caught the imagination of the Irish public and obviously still does.”
Though Heffernan’s performance registered strongly with the public, he failed to dislodge Katie Taylor as the country’s greatest current sports star, the 27-year old topping the poll for a second successive year.
The affection towards the Bray boxer following her Olympic gold last year rolled into 2013, and added to a fifth European Union title picked up in June, Taylor polled 25% to comfortably retain the title of Ireland’s greatest sporting star.
With one more season of action left, Leinster and Ireland rugby stalwart Brian O’Driscoll is still a firm favourite with 15% of the vote, once again placing second behind Taylor. AP McCoy (6%), Paul O’Connell (5%), Robbie Keane (5%) and Rory McIlroy (5%) complete the top six.
In a year where McCoy rode his 4,000th winner, Simon Zebo lit up the Millennium Stadium with the most audacious of flicks and Shane O’Donnell provided the most thrilling hat-trick in All-Ireland hurling final history, the iconic moment of 2013 certainly arrived left of field.
The appointment of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane as manager and assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland football team was selected as the most memorable sporting moment, nabbing 13% of the vote. AP McCoy’s record breaking win and Rob Kearney’s superb try against the All Blacks both polled 9%, with 6% of those surveyed touting Zebo’s flick against Wales in the Six Nations.
The ‘Team of the Year’ crown was shared between the Irish women’s rugby team and the victorious Clare hurlers. Both outfits scored 13% of the vote, edging out the Irish amateur boxing team, Leinster’s double winning rugby team and the Dublin footballers.
Soccer emerged as the most “liked” sport in Ireland – 49% — and it was little surprise then that the FIFA World Cup is the most anticipated sporting event in 2014, securing just under a quarter of the vote.
The Sochi Winter Olympics (9%) polled higher than both the All-Ireland hurling (8%) and football (5%) championships.
A massive 74% of Irish people support hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup, despite some reported reservations around costs.
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