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Sunday 22 October 2017

Game over - but what was the story with no-show Rory?

Sketch

Conor Ridge, head of Horizon Sports Management
Conor Ridge, head of Horizon Sports Management
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

The Man in Charge in court one issued instructions to the assembled masses before the second day of Rory McIlroy's case teed off in the High Court.

Eyes firmly fixed on the packed public gallery overlooking the room, he warned of the very dim view that the judge would take of anyone taking photos or videos of the proceedings. Suddenly the place was awash with crestfallen teenage celeb-spotters and grown-up golf fans alike, dreams of selfies dashed on legal rocks.

There was a definite air of expectation in the court which was something of a triumph of optimism over realism given that the previous day had been the soggiest of damp squibs.

For there had been no vivid testimony from the 25-year old golf genius. No tales of dazzling deals involving Everest-sized mountains of moolah. No dramatic behind-the-scenes insights from the head of Horizon Sports Management into the billion-dollar business which is top-level golf.

Instead, the avid audience had been left with three brief exchanges between Rory's senior counsel, Paul Gallagher and Judge Brian Cregan, which led to three consecutive adjournments at 11am, 2pm and 4pm.

Haggling

All the interesting haggling had taken place out of view - and it had evidently been a long, intense set of negotiations, as the golf champ was eventually snapped exiting the Four Courts around 9pm that evening, wrong-footing most of the waiting posse of photographers by leaving via a side-door and hopping in a waiting cab which sped smartly away.

But the protracted nature of the negotiations towards a settlement meant that nobody was entirely sure if they had concluded successfully, or whether the peace-pipe had been dashed against a wall and everyone was back in court.

After all, it was a bitter dispute which had erupted between the two sides over a contract which began when Rory left Horizon in 2013.

A few minutes before 11am, Horizon boss Conor Ridge and his team strode into the courtroom and took their seats, poker-faces firmly in place.

All eyes were on the door, awaiting the arrival of the superstar sportsman. Only 25 years old, but already Number 1 in the world, Rory McIlroy had appeared quite intrigued by his surroundings the previous day, interestedly looking about him like a kid on a trip to the zoo.

Time ticked by, but still his bench remained empty. Then all of a sudden the judge strode in and took his seat.

Uh-oh - where was he? What was the story with Rory?

Circus

Paul Gallagher swiftly rose and addressed the judge. "The entire matter has been resolved. We don't require any order," he announced, and sat down.

That was it. Sin é. The whole legal circus which had promised so much was over in less time than it would take to sink a five-foot putt.

Judge Cregan, perhaps kindly wishing to give the gutted mob of media something to write down, gave a little speech. "I would like to congratulate both parties on settling what would undoubtedly have been a long case. And I wish the defendants every success in their sports agency business in the future. And I would also like to wish Mr McIlroy every success in his future," he declared.

Then he upped and departed. The members of the public murmured in disappointment, looking at each other in bemusement. If there had been an entry fee at the door of Court One, they'd have stormed it, demanding their money back.

It was a difference scene on the bench containing Team Horizon. As Paul Gallagher made his pronouncement, Conor Ridge began to hug his compadres, relief overflowing at last.

Then there was the distinct rumble of wagons being circled.

The two sides having reached unanimity, the information shutters came clanging down. No heartfelt outpourings of emotion on the court steps were to be had. The only nourishment for the media to snack upon was a truly Beckettian joint statement that could be digested in the swish of a club. "The legal dispute between Rory McIlroy and Horizon Sports Management has been settled to the satisfaction of both parties who wish each other well for the future," it stated.

As the day progressed, rumours circulated that the settlement had been well into the millions, not to mention the legal costs which Rory will also be picking up. Nobody would confirm anything, but Conor Ridge was last seen purposefully heading with his legal team for what he revealed was a celebratory snifter.

And where was Rory while a whole lot of nothing was ongoing in Court One? Nobody knew, but everyone was disappointed. But chances are he was en route to his multi-million dollar pad in Palm Beach in Florida, a considerable few million scoots lighter, and with nothing to look forward to except the opportunity to claim the career Grand Slam at the US Masters in April. The poor wee lamb.

Irish Independent

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