Teneo Sports Index: Gaelic Games remain Ireland's favourite sports

December 18, 2019

The appeal of Gaelic Games continues ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Katie Taylor’s enduring appeal among Ireland’s public, the success on the field of Dublin’s five in-a-row footballers and Ireland’s Tokyo-bound women’s hockey team, and the popularity of Gaelic Games are all reflected in the findings of the Teneo Sport and Sponsorship Index (TSSI) 2019, which were released today.

The Teneo Sport and Sponsorship Index is a comprehensive 1,000 person nationally representative survey with quotas imposed across gender, region, age and social class.  The research was carried out by Teneo’s Sports and Sponsorship team and iReach and examines the Irish general public’s attitudes towards sport and their sporting heroes.  This is the view of the general public and not a survey of sports fans.  It is the tenth year of the TSSI and the research was carried out between November 19th and November 29th.

Most Memorable Sporting Moment
Shane Lowry’s debut Major win at The Open in Portrush captured the hearts and minds of the Irish public as the Offaly golfer took top spot in the Greatest Sporting Moment of 2019 category with the support of 30% of respondents – just beating Katie Taylor.

Taylor’s moment was beating Christina Linardatou to become a two-weight world champion and she got the backing of 29% of respondents.

These were by far and away Ireland’s greatest sporting achievements according to the general public, with Róisín Upton’s dramatic winning sudden-death penalty against Canada to send Ireland’s women’s hockey team to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in third place on 9%. Two hurling moments round out the top five – Wexford winning a rare Leinster title (6%) and Tipperary’s Séamus Callanan’s vital goal in the All-Ireland final win over Kilkenny (5%).

Team of the Year
This was a split decision between two teams that made history this year; Dublin’s senior footballers and Ireland’s women’s hockey team, in a further positive sign for women’s sport, each receiving 25% of the vote. The Dubs achieved something that was never done before – a five in-a-row of Sam Maguire wins. Unsurprisingly, their support rises to 37% among Dublin-based respondents. Our hockey team qualified for the Olympics for the first time ever in the most dramatic of fashions, beating Canada in a sudden-death penalty shoot-out with Róisín Upton scoring the winner despite having broken her wrist during the game.

There is a gender difference in terms of voting – overall Dublin attracted 32% of male votes and 17% of female. In an almost mirror image, 33% of women voted for Ireland’s hockey stars against 18% of men.

In third place in the poll was Ireland’s Under-20 rugby team, who won this year’s Six Nations. They received 16% of backing after they kept the flag flying during a mixed year for Irish rugby, with Ireland’s medal-winning rowing squad (9%) and Tipperary’s All-Ireland hurling champions (8%) rounding out the top five places

Most Admired Sports Star
Katie Taylor makes it a three in-a-row of wins in Ireland’s most Admired Sport Star category, holding on to the title she took in 2017 and 2018. In fact, it’s the fifth time in seven years that she has topped this particular poll, the only other winners in that time are the now-retired former Ireland rugby captain Paul O’Connell in 2015 and MMA fighter Conor McGregor in 2016. McGregor took 16% of votes three years ago but interestingly his support collapsed to just 2% in 2019.

Taylor is a clear winner with a quarter of the votes, well ahead of second placed Shane Lowry on 10% and her popularity with the general public remains enduring.

Irish rugby didn’t hit the highs of 2018, yet this didn’t stop Jonathan Sexton coming third on 6%, with Munster captain Peter O’Mahony and recently retired Ireland skipper Rory Best sharing joint fourth on 5% alongside rowing brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan. Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton is the highest ranked GAA player on 3%.

Favourite Sport
Gaelic Games holds on to its status as Ireland’s Favourite Sport for the second year on the bounce, having moved to the top of the charts for the first time ever in 2018. Soccer had been the nation’s number one for eight years in succession from 2010, when the TSSI research was first carried out.

Gaelic Games (football, ladies, hurling and camogie) won 19% support, just ahead of soccer (men and women’s) on 18%, with rugby, (men’s and women’s), third on 13%.

Swimming is on 5%, a two percentage point jump in 12 months, and remains fourth while golf also picks up a percent to sit on 4%, though drops one place to fifth.

When it comes to sport that people “like”, but that isn’t necessarily their favourite sport, tennis (19%), golf (18%), athletics (18%) and horse racing (12%) all poll strongly.

2020 Vision
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is the sporting event the Irish public is most looking forward to next year with 22% of votes, with Euro 2020 in second place on 17% despite four games in the tournament being held at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. Rugby’s Six Nations is the next most anticipated event on 14% with the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship (12%) All-Ireland Senior Football Championship (9%) rounding out the top five. However, combined, all four Gaelic Games’ All-Ireland championships (including camogie on 1% and ladies football on 2%) gather 24% of votes.

Rob Pearson, Director, Teneo Ireland: “Wrapping up a rollercoaster year for Irish sport, the findings from Teneo Sport and Sponsorship Index confirm the central role and contribution that sport, our sports teams and athletes play in our culture and society.

“After four years of rugby dominance, a GAA side climbs back to the head of the Team of the Year category for the first time in six years, where they share top spot. GAA sides typically struggle in nationally representative bodies of research but the Dublin’s footballers’ history-making five in-a-row was recognised across the country as they were voted Team of the Year alongside Ireland’s women’s hockey team, who also made history by qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This isn’t the first time that a GAA team or a women’s team has topped the poll; in fact, in 2013 Clare’s All-Ireland winning hurlers and Ireland’s Grand Slam winning women’s rugby team also shared the accolade.

“Shane Lowry’s history-making Major win moves him into the realms of Irish sporting superstars and was voted the most memorable sporting moment of the year. Katie Taylor’s popularity with the general public knows no bounds; every way you cut the data she is Ireland’s most admired sports star for the third year running. Katie’s continued excellence in the ring coupled with the Ireland women’s hockey side’s dramatic 2020 Olympic qualification and a record-breaking Ladies All Ireland Football and Camogie finals attendance numbers made for another very strong year for women’s sport.

“As a nation we are drawn to the global stage and 2020 is no different with Tokyo 2020 being the sports event that the nation is most looking forward. With qualification not guaranteed Euro 2020 sits in second place in the most looked forward to list followed by the annual 6 Nations and ever-popular All-Ireland Championships.”

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