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How to change minds and influence people: Irish athletes who altered public perceptions in 2014

Don’t I know you?

Andrew Trimble crashes over the line to score against Italy during the 2014 Six Nations.
Andrew Trimble crashes over the line to score against Italy during the 2014 Six Nations.
Image: Brian Lawless

FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER. The first few times we see a player or a sport, we can be far too quick to judge, to decide that the player is never going to be good enough, or that the sport simply isn’t interesting.

However, sport is constantly changing, and some performances this year certainly changed some minds.  Here are some Irish sportspeople who wiped away preconceptions in 2014.

Andrew Trimble

Source: RBS 6 Nations/YouTube

Despite 57 appearances for his country over a nine-year international career, Trimble has often been regarded as a stopgap wing by many Ireland fans. Though he has size, strength, and pace, he hasn’t been a prolific scorer, and while Ulster supporters have long seen his quality, his international performances have lacked a spark.

Yet in 2014, albeit with an injury crisis on the wing, Joe Schmidt welcomed him into the fold, emphasising his wingers’ work rate and breakdown efforts, and Trimble rewarded him in spades.

A magnificent Six Nations campaign in which he not only did the little things, but also bagged three tries, saw him voted IRUPA and Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland player of the year. At the beginning of 2014 many regarded it as a serious blow to Ireland’s Six Nations hopes that Trimble would be starting left winger; by the time the November internationals came around, his absence through a toe injury was a worrisome thought.

Stephanie Roche

Source: FIFATV/YouTube

An established Irish international, Stephanie Roche didn’t necessarily need to change minds about her performances. However, when her gorgeous goal for Peamount United was nominated for the FIFA Puskás goal of the year award, she catapulted women’s football into the spotlight. The undeniable quality of her technique saw her elevated to competing against Robin Van Persie and James Rodríguez, pushing the women’s side of the game firmly into the international spotlight.

Ireland women’s rugby team

Source: World Rugby/YouTube

Ireland don’t beat New Zealand at rugby. Ever. During the 2013  Autumn internationals the men’s side came agonisingly close, but Ryan Crotty’s late try stopped them short. Along came the women’s team, cool as you like, and did it in a World Cup. That’s a tournament where the New Zealanders hadn’t lost a game since 1991.

They were five time consecutive champions, but Ireland didn’t let the weight of history wear them down. Their campaign came to a disappointing end in the semi-final against England, but during the tournament they showed exactly how good Ireland could be on a global stage.

Kieran Donaghy

Source: Reviewman/YouTube

An All Star in 2006 and 2008, by the beginning of this year Donaghy had faded to the periphery of the Kerry set-up. Having battled back from injury, he was a substitute during their successful Munster championship campaign, and unused against Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final. His first meaningful action of the season came with an effective substitute performance in the drawn semi-final against Mayo.

Starting for the first time in the replay, he grabbed a goal that proved the difference, and in the final against Donegal his 1-2 were key. By the time he helped Austin Stacks to both Kerry and Munster Senior Football crowns, 2014 had transformed from the year Donaghy was finished, to the year of Donaghy.

 - Eoin Gubbins

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