Conor McGregor Is The Biggest Sports Star Ireland Has Ever Produced

By niallharbison

July 14, 2017 at 7:06pm


Roy. Sonia. AP. Katie. Padraig. Rory...

The biggest sports stars Ireland has ever produced are very easily identifiable by their first names alone and we all rank them differently based on our own affinity for the various sports. 

Calling one the biggest over another is a pub argument that nobody was ever going to win outright.

Until now. 

Because Ireland now has the biggest sports star it has ever produced in the form of Conor McGregor.

It's been building for some time but when I suggested it last year I was met with a ferocious backlash and disagreement... 

Ten million people watched the launch event in LA on Tuesday night. Close to 1 million watched it in real time. 20,000 screaming Irish fans showed up in Toronto a day later for another press conference. McGregor has been trending on social networks and there are 4.6 million articles on Google News about him.

The world can't get enough of McGregor and he could earn €100 million+ from this fight alone making him one of the best-paid athletes on the planet.

Haters will be quick to point out that they are not actual sporting numbers like Rory's four majors or Katie's five world championship golds but with McGregor it's easy to forget he tore up the record book in his own sport in both Cage Warriors and UFC.  

So despite the massive hardcore Mcgregor fan base in Ireland, why the ambivalence among the rest of the general public? 

I think it comes from a few factors...

  • MMA background: The main issue that people have is the sport that Mcgregor made his name in... MMA. To many, it is still a violent and ugly activity unbefitting of mainstream attention.
  • Irish begrudgery: In the same way that U2 have had huge international success, there has always been a lingering sneering reluctance to embrace them by many here in Ireland. We don't like people doing too well. 
  • Brashness:. We're not meant to be loud and brash and confident in ourselves. McGregor is all of those and then some. It's part of a persona created to sell fights, build a brand and engage people in an age of social media. 
  • Irish media:. Mcgregor has largely bypassed the Irish mainstream media. His social media nous has allowed him to connect unedited, unfiltered with fans on their smartphones. The airwaves, column inches and TV are still dominated by rugby, football and golf. You don't need to look far to see seasoned pundits in open disdain of him and what he does.

People watch sport for entertainment. 

For the raw emotion. 

To be on the edge of their seat. 

For the unexpected. 

Say whatever you want about the fight on August 26 but all those boxes will be ticked and the world simply won't be able to take their eyes off it. 

In the past month I've listened in on conversations in coffee shops in LA and bars in Manchester as people of all ages talk about McGregor. 

I've talked to relatives who have no interest in sport analyse McGregor's chances in great detail. Everywhere I go I hear the man's name being debated. 

In the last week, it hasn't been in the most positive of light, but the trash talking is all part of it. 

Unlike some of the Irish sporting stars at the start of this article McGregor is being talked about globally. On every street, in every cafe, in every city on the planet. He is quite simply the biggest to ever come from these shores. That is no longer in doubt. 

What people will soon realise is that if Conor McGregor knocks Floyd Mayweather out within 4 rounds as promised on August 26 he won't just be the biggest sports star Ireland has ever produced... he'll be the biggest on the entire planet right now full stop.

Isn't it time we all just sat back and enjoyed it for what it is? A bit of fun. And the best bit is our very own man from Ireland is the reason for it. 

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