It’s a conversation (or sometimes a heated debate) that has taken place many times over a pint of HARP® in pubs all across Northern Ireland: Who are the very best sports stars Northern Ireland has to offer? And who would make a Top 3 ‘Living Legends: Giants of NI Sport’?
In a bid to answer those burning questions, HARP brought together four local sports experts to start the debate and thrash out their Top 3. Thirty years on from becoming World Champion at Featherweight and being named BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Barry McGuigan was joined by Graham Little (Sky Sports), Adrian Logan (former UTV sports editor) and Jackie Fullerton (voice of NI football) at The HARP Bar in Belfast to attempt to reach definitive answers.
Football, horse racing, GAA, motorsport, rugby, athletics, boxing, hockey, cricket and golf were all on the agenda and after some serious consideration – and much mickey-taking – the panel eventually agreed their Top 3 Living Legends. They are – in no particular order – Rory McIlroy (golf); AP McCoy (horse racing) and Pat Jennings (football).
Barry McGuigan ruled himself out of contention by arguing that he hadn’t been at the top long enough to justify inclusion. Barry said: “It really wasn’t easy picking a Top 3, and we all had a favourite that didn’t quite make it. But the consensus among the panel was that AP, Pat and Rory have all had an incredible impact and reached the very top level; the pinnacle of what is possible to achieve in their chosen field.
“These three guys are known around the world for their achievements: AP, who was champion jockey twenty times in a row, absolutely peerless; Rory, who has already won four majors and could go on to become the greatest golfer of all time; and Big Pat, Northern Ireland’s most-capped player, a man who won the FA Cup with both Spurs and Arsenal and would surely have been in any ‘World 11’ in his day.”
The filmed chat, created by HARP as a way to champion the very best of Northern Ireland sport, saw much lively debate as the experts whittled down a longlist of 24 men and women who each, in their own right, could be considered a giant of their sport.
Suggested criteria to start the conversation was that the Top 3 must have reached the highest point in their sport and stayed there for a long period of time; must have made an impact internationally; and must be a household name.
Lisa Ronayne, Senior Brand Manager Europe – HARP, said: “With the eyes of sports media turning to Belfast in December for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2015 award, we’ve started a local debate with an expert panel. We’re sure there’ll be plenty of people out there who agree with our Top 3, and plenty more who think that personalities like Barry McGuigan, Willie John McBride, Jonny Rea, Dame Mary Peters and Dennis Taylor should’ve made the cut.
“It’s now over to HARP fans and the people of Northern Ireland to continue the debate in the office, at the dinner table, in the pubs and on the HARP Facebook page, where they can watch a series of short films which capture how the panel arrived at its decision.”
Watch the extended ‘Living Legends: Giants of NI Sport’ panel debate here: