Saturday 16 December 2017

Rory McIlroy urged to find time for wall of fame amid Ashford Castle wedding

Rory McIlroy is marrying Erica Stoll at Ashford Castle
Rory McIlroy is marrying Erica Stoll at Ashford Castle

Golf star Rory McIlroy is under pressure to lend his hand to locals as he makes final preparations to marry Erica Stoll in the west of Ireland.

The couple's big day is being billed as the wedding of the year with a lavish ceremony planned for Saturday behind the walls of the 13th century Ashford Castle.

The exclusive estate, in the village of Cong in Co Mayo, is no stranger to star names as far back as the 1950s when it was the setting for screen classic The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

With locals hoping to capitalise on the latest celebrity to cross their path, they are asking the four-time major winner to take a break from his wedding day to leave a permanent mark.

Paddy Rock, organiser of the Cong Hands of Fame Award, said a space has been set aside for the golfer to immortalise his handprints in bronze on a wall of fame in the village.

"If he didn't want to do it, we wouldn't think any less of him," Mr Rock said.

The award is in its early years and McIlroy would be top billing in company with the likes of country singer Daniel O'Donnell, Munster rugby coach Pat Lam and Maria Walsh, a winner of the Rose of Tralee.

Mr Rock said: "His hands are of utter importance to his livelihood. He's a golfer after all.

"We'd love it, even if he came back to do it at some stage. We don't want to bother him on his wedding day or his honeymoon - you know, we wouldn't want him to take his eye of the ball."

The rumour mill in the village has been in full swing about what big names will turn up.

Stevie Wonder was being talked about as the star performer, along with a supposed guest list to include Niall Horan of One Direction and a possible flying visit from Ed Sheeran.

The castle, with its 350 acres, nine-hole golf course, horse riding, falconry, fishing and clay pigeon shooting, can be rented for about 100,000 euro a day at this time of year. It has been on lockdown since Thursday with staff and guests asked to wear wristbands for security checks.

Cong itself is a draw for all things linked with John Ford's The Quiet Man, for fans of Wayne and O'Hara and nostalgic American tourists.

Mr Rock was putting a flock of sheep out to pasture next to the castle walls when he joked: "Well, I turned down the invite for the afters of the wedding. If they weren't going to invite me to the full day, that's it.

"But no hard feelings, we're going to leave a spot on the wall for Rory if he will give us the print of his hand."

A bronze statue keeping alive the famous scene from The Quiet Man, when Wayne sweeps O'Hara off her feet, has pride of place on Cong Main Street.

But Gerry Collins, founder of The Quiet Man Museum and film location walking tours, wondered if the newlyweds might recreate that scene on the golf course or another when O'Hara was flung on to the bed, only for it to break.

Mr Collins said: "That'd be a great start to a wedding and married life wouldn't it?"

Locals and staff are renowned for their discretion, with famous faces a familiar sight in and around Ashford Castle.

Mr Collins added: "This would remind you of 1951 when John Wayne stepped off the train in Cong, or Ronald Reagan in 1984.

"There's a big buzz around Cong but we don't know anything, it's just what we can see out the window."

Mr Rock added: "There's plenty of people talking about it but they are so accustomed to people of notoriety."

McIlroy revealed in a recent interview that he was friends with Ms Stoll before romance blossomed.

She was credited with getting the star to the first tee on time for his singles match in the 2012 Ryder Cup "Miracle in Medinah" after he missed his alarm.

For anyone wondering what a multi-millionaire golf star has in mind for a honeymoon, McIlroy said he was planning something in "the middle of nowhere".

Cong is as good a base as any for that.

Press Association

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