By Tom Degun

Jason SmythDecember 18 - Ireland's Paralympians have been named Team of the Year in the 2012 Pembroke Communications Sports Sentiment Index (SSI).

The SSI is a comprehensive 1,000 person nationally representative survey that examines the attitudes of Irish people towards sport, their sporting heroes, participation levels, the impact of sport on the Irish psyche and the contribution sport is making to local communities.

The double gold medal winning performance from sprinter Jason Smyth (pictured top) and middle distance runner Michael McKillop (pictured below) at the London 2012 Paralympics helped Ireland finish in 19th place on the medal table at the Games with a total of 16 medals and eight golds.

The performance saw 38 per cent of the Irish public name the Irish Paralympics team as the Team of the Year for 2012 in the SSI.

They saw off the Irish boxing team who claimed 23 per cent of the vote, Donegal footballers who took 14 per cent of the vote and Leinster's Heineken Cup team who took 11 per of the vote.
MichaelMcKillopMichael McKillop helped Ireland finish in 19th place on the medal table at the London 2012 Paralympics after claiming two golds

Paralympics Ireland chief executive Liam Harbison, who served as Ireland's Chef de Mission at London 2012, claimed the news was a major boost for disability sport in the country.

"We're delighted that the outstanding achievements of the Irish Paralympic team in London have been recognised by the public in this way." Harbison told insidethegames.

"The success of the athletes coupled with extensive games coverage has catapulted Paralympic sport into a new reality and greater opportunities.

"We intend to capitalise on this great legacy from London 2012."

Mick O'Keeffe, the managing director of Pembroke Communications, also praised Ireland's Paralympians.

"2012 was a breakthrough year for awareness of disability sport and the Irish Paralympic team's successes has made them the Team of the Year according to 38 per cent of Irish people," he said.

Elsewhere, the Irish public said that the moment their female lightweight boxing star Katie Taylor won Olympic gold was the greatest sporting achievement of 2012, while Taylor was also voted Ireland's greatest current sports star

Furthermore, 89 per cent believe Irish sporting success has a positive impact on the country's reputation while now only 12 per cent of the population take no part in sport or exercise.

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