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Soccer scores in the popularity stakes


Paul McGrath against Italy in USA 94

Paul McGrath against Italy in USA 94

Paul McGrath against Italy in USA 94

Soccer stars have emerged as Ireland's favourite sports people over the past five decades.

Following the publication of Unrivalled in last week's Sunday Independent, Independent.ie asked people to vote on their favourite sports personalities from each decade since 1965, and the results are in.

Over 15,000 votes were cast between Monday and Friday, and a pattern has emerged, with Brian O'Driscoll the only non-soccer player to top the poll for his decade.

Manchester United legend George Best (47.96 per cent) emerged the clear winner for the period 1965-74, with Lions great Willie John McBride (11.05 per cent) and Kerry's Mick O'Connell (9.25 per cent) his closest rivals.

Arsenal star Liam Brady (21.74 per cent) just edged out 5,000m world champion Eamonn Coghlan (20.67 per cent) in the following decade.

Our favourite sports star for the 10 years between 1985 and 1994 was Paul McGrath (32.68 per cent), with cycling legends Sean Kelly (19.13 per cent) and Stephen Roche (13.55 per cent) behind the man capped 83 times by Ireland.

Another Manchester United star was king of the next decade, 1995-2004. Roy Keane (48.07 per cent) was chosen as the top athlete of the decade, followed by Olympic silver medallist Sonia O'Sullivan (15.81 per cent) and five-time All-Ireland winner DJ Carey (10.93 per cent)

The man who led Ireland to their first Grand Slam in 61 years, O'Driscoll, was voted the best sportsperson of the past decade (36.56 per cent), perhaps reflecting that it has been a decade where rugby has had more success.

His nearest challengers were Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor (13.29 per cent) and current Ireland rugby captain Paul O'Connell (11.32 per cent).

Sunday Indo Sport