Opinion: Conor McGregor is leading Ireland’s new positivity movement 7 years ago

Opinion: Conor McGregor is leading Ireland’s new positivity movement

“Just over two years I’m here and I’ve already broken every record in the game…it does not come easy, there’s a lot of work involved.”

by Colm Boohig


It is perhaps the most relevant and worthy quote to encapsulate the incredible rise of Conor McGregor. The new interim featherweight champion was in reflective mood throughout the Vegas press conference that proceeded the amazing and unforgettable UFC 189.

The Dubliner is now playing the lead character in a sport which is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most popular.

In truth, McGregor has also been the head of another, more unofficial movement for a while now – Ireland’s fresh sense of positivity.


I decided to write this article regardless of victory or defeat. For me, the movement was already well underway long before Sunday morning's Vegas showdown. However, the manner of his dramatic TKO over Chad Mendes lent itself nicely to the narrative that McGregor really does mean business in the most enjoyable way.

It is truly inspiring and this attitude is reflected more and more in everyday Irish life.

Five years ago, Ireland was on its knees. Unemployment veered towards a catastrophic 15%, emigration was a necessity for many as opposed to the lifestyle choice it is increasingly becoming, and social confidence was at a modern-day nadir, particularly among young adults. The buzzword of the day was ‘recession’ and Irish rugby was the only positive form of sporting escapism. However, in the last two years, the tide has gradually started to change.

While Ireland is still in recovery mode, a new confidence has been breathed into the nation. Job announcements, particularly in the tech sector, are becoming more frequent and there has been a huge surge in young entrepreneurs and start-ups. The DIY attitude that was born out of hopelessness has now become a prominent norm.


This confidence has seeped into society and recreation. Ireland has got its swagger back and it is visible by walking through any major street in the country. The young male emblem for this new movement is the beard, blazer and tattoo combination which now dominates Irish fashion. While there are varying creative influences out there, it all appears to point back to The Notorious himself.

McGregor is undoubtedly a world-class athlete whose surname can be inserted somewhere along the list of O’Driscoll, Keane, Taylor, Harrington and Walsh.

The 27-year-old is just as patriotic as the esteemed sporting heroes he ranks alongside, yet there is something somewhat unique about McGregor among that group – he is atypically Irish in his approach.



The Crumlin native is confident, cocky, at times downright haughty and often all three at the same time. However, the biggest difference with McGregor is his self-appraisal – he is always the favourite in his eyes and is quick to notify the world of this self-perceived status. That is an alien concept to many of his peers.

It is not an attitude which is adopted with any great reverence on the Emerald Isle. Traditionally speaking, Ireland thrives in the role of underdog. History illustrates this and we are very comfortable with being cast aside, only to fight back with gumption on the brink of defeat.

We are renowned for this attitude and universally respected for our battling spirit and perseverance through adversity. Ireland is world-class at supporting the humble and modest, it distrusts and scorns ego and vanity. McGregor has, inadvertently or otherwise, flipped this position on its head.


His is the swagger built upon total confidence in his ability to compete among the elite and showcase his extensive skill set. While his attitude can understandably polarize many, his focus and approach should be copied. McGregor is an example of what Ireland can produce – there should be many more to follow.

After his stunning knockout of Mendes, a friend texted me in the early hours of the morning comparing the new champion’s impact to that of Muhammed Ali. He was speaking in terms of potential, but the point could well be justified down the line. McGregor’s influence can become strong enough to transcend sport, just like Ali did.

His candidacy is illustrated in the opening quote of this article; if you are willing to dedicate yourself to your chosen craft, work as part of a team, make life-altering sacrifices and claim success in the process, then tell the world. Don’t be shy, they will listen.