Rory McIlroy and Erica Stoll mark final day unmarried with Irish falconry show
Rory McIlroy and his fiancée Erica Stoll gave their romance wings as they marked their final day unmarried with an exhilarating display of Irish falconry.
Golf star Rory (27) and Erica (29) arranged for the special falconry display on the sprawling grounds of Ashford Castle in Cong, Co Mayo, ahead of their lavish wedding ceremony there today.
Specially trained falcons - and one extremely rare trained owl - swept around the couple in an astonishing display of the medieval sport.
The highlight was having the owl sweep between the golfer and his US-born fiancée as they stood facing each other less than one metre apart.
On Thursday, the Co Down-born star indulged in clay pigeon shooting with some friends as he enjoyed his four-day no-expense-spared wedding party in the luxurious 360-acre Mayo estate.
Throughout yesterday, a fleet of limousines, jeeps and helicopters swept into Cong in preparation for Ireland's celebrity wedding of the decade. The wedding in the 13th-Century castle is set to be a 'who's who' of the Irish sporting, show business and financial worlds, with the 200-plus wedding guests set to be entertained by US music legend Stevie Wonder. The 'Superstition' singer called into CompuB store in Galway yesterday.
Eoin Healy from CompuB got the opportunity to serve the star.
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"At around 4.30pm a customer came in and approached a member of staff," he said. "I didn't really take any notice, but when I glanced over I heard the person he was with saying 'This is Stevie and he's looking to buy a few things'.
"Then it just hit me and I was like 'Oh my God, it's Stevie Wonder'.
"He was so friendly and started talking to me about how beautiful Ireland is even though it's a bit cold.
"He bought two pairs of Apple wireless earphones, a car charger and Bang and Olufsen earphones."
The guests at the wedding include One Direction star Niall Horan, and Rory's fellow Irish golf stars, including Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Shane Lowry.
Coldplay's Chris Martin and singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran are tipped to attend, but they had not arrived at Ashford Castle last night.
Special guest will be Rory's Ryder Cup team-mate and newly crowned US Masters champion Sergio Garcia.
The business world is expected to be represented by billionaire JP McManus.
Locals admitted they were thrilled with the focus on the picturesque village.
"It is great for Cong, great for Mayo and great for the West of Ireland," admitted Aisling Butler, who runs 'The Hungry Monk' café with Jonathan Byrne.
"Everyone is keeping their eyes peeled for a celebrity - and, to mark the occasion, I was even thinking of selling golf balls in the café with morning coffee."
Local man Paddy Rock, who founded the Cong Hands of Fame Award, said the golfer is now being invited to immortalise himself by having his hand imprint set in bronze on the monument.
Guests have been assured that they can celebrate the wedding in absolute privacy, with security around the sprawling castle and estate described as being "as tight as when US President Ronald Reagan visited in 1984".
Three separate layers of security were in place around the estate last night, including perimeter patrols.
Mr McIlroy's personal security chief, Brian Murphy, who also works with U2, was supervising arrangements at the castle perimeter.