Conor McGregor will dominate headlines again this week as he prepares for his return to UFC action on Saturday night but he does so against a background of faltering adulation among Irish sports fans.

Given that he has not been in sporting action at all since the Mayweather payday last year, perhaps it is still positive that he comes out as the third most popular Irish sports star in the 2018 edition of the Onside Sponsorship Star Track survey.

Katie Taylor has navigated the journey from amateur to professional boxing without losing her lustre and retains the number one spot ahead of Roy Keane who has climbed to replace McGregor as the number two.

“Digging behind individual performances, Taylor’s dominance in appeal among the Irish female public is undisputed, while McGregor’s strong point remains among 18-24 year olds, where he is the clear number one superstar,” said Onside Sponsorship CEO John Trainor.

Roy Keane has emerged as the sports star that Irish males admire most, fuelled in part by a strong support from the public in Munster.

It promises to be a massive year for Rugby with the All Blacks coming to Dublin next month and a defence of the Six Nations and Heineken Cup followed by the Rugby World Cup.

Johnny Sexton is the star most likely to benefit most off a strong base with his featuring as the top Rugby player in the survey.

“While legend’s Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara all still score in the ONSIDE Top 10 Most Admired Sports stars of 2018, Johnny Sexton has shot up the leaderboard to join the past players in our latest Top 10,” added Trainor.

“Sexton is poised to cement his position alongside his fellow rugby legends and other stars like Sonia O’Sullivan and Padraig Harrington as Ireland’s most admired sports heroes for years to come.”

“GAA personalities that scored highest in the ONSIDE STAR TRACK 2018 included a mix of players and management, with Stephen Cluxton the Top Most admired current Gaelic Football star and Joe Canning the Top Most Admired current Hurling star in 2018.”

“Also singled out by the public for admiration were Dublin Manager Jim Gavin and Kilkenny Manager Brian Cody.”

“Two-thirds of the general population were willing to name a sports person they admired most this year, with an increase in the number and variety of different sports-related stars winning the Irish public’s hearts and minds rising to 58 – with 2 in 3 of these being GAA, soccer or Rugby stars.”

“There is plenty of room for stars like Katie Taylor, Johnny Sexton and some of Ireland’s Top Sports Managers across Rugby, Soccer and GAA to front the right ambassadorial programmes with major brands in 2019.”

“In 2019 we would expect to see more ambassadorial cross-overs in sports like golf and between sport and music platforms that provide the next generation formulae for personality based business and brand building initiatives.”

Onside Sponsorship and the Marketing Institute of Ireland will host Who Won the Summer of Sponsorship 2018 at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday 23rd October with Gemma Bell from Bank of Ireland, Kevin Quinn from Leinster Rugby and European Championship Bronze medallist Thomas Barr among those scheduled to speak. Find out more here.