Can McIlroy ever do right by the people of Ireland?

John Craven
Rory McIlroy / Image from Getty Images

Rory McIlroy / Image from Getty Images

John Craven

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If population growth ever increased to the point of global combustion, one method I’d adopt for culling the people would be to make the terminally offended Rory McIlroy detractors disappear. I would scroll through the countless comment threads under his articles and note those whose archaic attitudes insist on holding back Ireland’s political progression and I’d take their names to my genie with whom I still hold one wish and he’d do the rest.

Oh, in case you haven’t heard, there was some super news this week; the greatest player to have ever swung a golf club from the island of Ireland declared that he would wear green at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Judging by the reaction, however, a few people must have thought it was Michelle Smith who made the announcement.

‘We don’t want ya, go back to where ye came from, come out ye Black & Tans’ was the hyperbole overreaction from the usual suspects still seething after Celtic lost the most meaningless Old Firm Derby of all time against Rangers on Sunday.

McIlroy admitted that “as a young boy it was always my dream to play for Ireland”, but those greeting the news across social media have no time for dreams. To them, McIlroy is nothing other than a ‘curly-haired west Brit’ who turned his back on Ireland when he was born up north, bought his sweets in sterling and studied for the GCSEs. It seems the only way Rory will ever unite the Irish people behind him now is to march north draped in a tricolour with his gap-wedge in hand, swinging wildly until he breaks down the 47 kilometre stretch of high walls in Belfast before taking the six counties back for the Republic.

Until he manages such heroics though, the people would prefer someone like West Waterford’s Seamus Power to represent them at the Games, a man who single-handedly revived the Irish Open when our national tournament looked destined to be resigned to the history books. If it wasn’t for Power, who not only hosted the tournament but enticed Rolex on board with their $7 million dollar prize pot, enlisted the help of his litany of high-profile contacts within the sport to compete and even won the tournament himself before donating his entire winner’s cheque to charity, who knows what Paul McGinley would be doing in Lahinch this summer.

Unlike Power, McIlroy has turned his back on the Irish Open too in order to give himself the best chance of winning an Open Championship, set to be played, more than likely, for the first and only time during his playing career at Royal Portrush, a venue McIlroy holds a course-record 61 at and that sits just an hour’s drive from his childhood home in Holywood, County Down. I mean, the neck on this man.

So, who should represent Ireland at the Games? There’s Shane Lowry who, by the same logic as applied to McIlroy, also turned his back on Ireland when he cited the risk of contracting the Zika virus as reason enough to skip the Rio Olympics in 2016. There’s Padraig Harrington, who has already confirmed he’ll be winding down his own playing ambitions ahead of captaining the European Ryder Cup Team at Whistling Straits next September. And then there’s the likes of Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan who, given their form over the last year, have hardly earned the privilege of entering an Olympic theatre.

Going down the list of hopefuls begs the question – why are we paying money to send these athletes to the Olympics at all? Call me old fashioned but my primary reason for doing so would be to win a gold medal and I’d feel a lot more confident in that pursuit with McIlroy wearing green than I would any other player eligible to represent Ireland at the Games.

And what if he does win? Has anyone even considered the ramifications? Rory McIlroy of Holywood Northern Ireland standing tall atop the podium, gold medal glistening around his neck, Irish flag fluttering in the background, as Amhran na bhFiann echoes through the stadium and rings through the television sets of the 32 counties he’s proudly represented back home. Would the people adore him then like they do many men who’ve done far less for Irish golf? Probably not, but my God, it would be some craic!

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