It may have been a bad weekend just gone for the provinces in Europe, but rugby’s growing popularity amongst sports fans in Ireland is clear from the latest Sports Sentiment Index, released yesterday by PSG Sponsorship.
Long regarded as the little brother among the ‘Big Three’ sporting organisations, it seems as if rugby is poised to overtake Gaelic games as the second-most popular sport in Ireland, with soccer top of the tree as the game with the widest appeal.
A survey of 1,000 people found that 16% of people regard rugby as their favourite sport, as opposed to 17% for Gaelic games which encompasses Gaelic football, hurling, ladies football and camogie.
Soccer leads the way as the favourite sport of 24% of respondents, with tennis and swimming tied in fourth place at 5%.
Katie Taylor is the most admired sports star and her fifth World Championship gold medal, won last month in South Korea, ranks as the sporting achievement of the year, but rugby is conspicuous in both polls. Brian O’Driscoll is the second-most admired sports star despite retiring last May, while Paul O’Connell finished third.
There is no GAA player in that particular top 10. Robbie Keane in joint fourth and UFC fighter Conor McGregor in fifth are notable others.
The Irish senior men’s and women’s rugby teams finished first and second in the category ranking the best team of 2014, while the 2015 Rugby World Cup is the most anticipated rugby event among sports fans here right now.
Rory McIlroy, who beaten by Lewis Hamilton to the honour of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday, had to settle for a place among the pack again despite a superb year which delivered two Majors and a return to the top of golf’s world rankings.
McIlroy finished joint fourth with Keane in terms of those most admired and the achievements listed above earned him just 8% of the vote and a third-place ranking in the poll on the greatest Irish sporting achievement of 2014.
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