ROB HEFFERNAN’S 50km gold medal at the World Championships in Moscow narrowly pipped Tony McCoy riding his 4,000th winner as the year’s greatest Irish sporting achievement according to the Pembroke Communications Sport Sentiment Index.
Heffernan secured 12% of the vote, just ahead of McCoy’s 11% and three clear of the Grand Slam heroics of Ireland’s women’s rugby team.
However, the most iconic sporting moment of the year was the appointment of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane to the Ireland management team, beating McCoy into second place again while Rob Kearney’s break-away try against New Zealand finished third.
Katie Taylor remains the country’s greatest current sports star according to the survey though her popularity has fallen from 53% last year to 25% in 2013. Leinster’s Brian O’Driscoll was second (15%) while Tony McCoy doubled his popularity to move into third on 6%
The title of Team of the Year was shared this year between the Grand Slam winning Irish women’s rugby team and the victorious Clare hurling team who both polled 13%.
Mick O’Keeffe of Pembroke Communications said: “Having had so many hard luck stories over the years and a number of fourth place finishes, everyone celebrated Rob Heffernan’s gold in Moscow.
“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.
“The brilliant Clare hurlers and Irish Ladies Rugby team shared the title Team of the Year, slightly ahead of Leinster’s double winning team and Dublin’s Sam Maguire and Allianz League winning champions amongst others.”
Another interesting finding is that a massive 74% of those surveyed support a bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup while the FIFA World Cup is the most anticipated sporting event of 2014.
Soccer is the most popular sport (49%) followed by rugby (45%) and 30% for both gaelic football and hurling.