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Declan Lynch: Rory's flag master stroke is a defeat for eejitry everywhere

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AS RORY McIlroy tapped in for his par on the last hole at Congressional, I suspect that the vast majority were thinking about an article in this paper which was published just a week after the Masters.

At that time there was grave concern throughout the media about the way that Rory had thrown it away at Augusta, with many wondering if he would ever be right again.

But there was one article which took a different line, arguing that Rory would rise above the terrible events of Amen Corner, concluding with the line that "he will win another Major before the year is out . . ." and that "he will be as magnificent in victory as he was in defeat".

As the author of that article, perhaps I should be feeling the glow of triumph. Yet I refuse to take the full credit for McIlroy's success, as I am troubled by a minor flaw in the prediction -- yes, he would indeed win a Major before the year is out, but I had added the words, "probably the British Open".

Always we must strive for perfection, and anything less simply will not make the cut.

Then again, he may win the British Open too, next month at Royal St George's, and frankly at this stage I can't see anyone else winning it. In fact, his father Gerry said last week that Rory would probably win the British Open, to which one is tempted to respond: it's easy to say that now, baby!

For those of us like Gerry and myself who have always believed in Rory, and backed him all the way, that starting price of 16/1 for the US Open was some small reward. Though it is tempered by the knowledge that for the rest of his life, we have most certainly seen the last of the 16/1.

Yet by some accident of timing, the first thing I heard on Irish radio on the Monday morning after Congressional was a complaint from a listener who couldn't understand why we were celebrating the victory of a British athlete.

Eejitry never sleeps. It is eternally vigilant, eternally virulent.

This particular outbreak was no doubt related to an especially impressive piece of work on McIlroy's part, that moment just after he had won, when he was handed an Irish tricolour, and he somehow managed to get rid of it.

Here we saw an instinctive rejection of eejitry on the part of the champion, a remarkable example of a man passing the first eejitry test of his new life, under the most extreme conditions.

It was a defeat, not just for eejitry Irish-style, but for eejitry everywhere. And the response to it, and to other aspects of McIlroy's cultural identity, tells us much about the state of the eejitry game as a whole.

For a start, it suggests a narrowness of attitude that would be incredible, if we did not know that it exists out there in the hearts of nationalists, jabbering away to themselves, sending anti-Rory texts to radio stations.

Though they are obsessed with the right of the Irish people to self-determination, it seems to completely pass them by that they would deny Rory his right to self-determination -- that if he wants to represent Great Britain at the Olympics for example, as athletes from Norn Iron have always done, he is behaving in a perfectly normal way.

Indeed, it would only be abnormal if he decided to represent the Republic, where he wasn't born, where he wasn't brought up, and in which he has never lived.

Still, there are some who can't handle the truth that someone we admire might have no interest in being a part of our crazy operation. We used to jeer at Norn Iron as a "failed entity", but, coming from us, that would be a bit rich these days.

Nor does it occur to the forces of eejitry that when they claim a Rory McIlroy as one of our own, these supporters of a United Ireland are inadvertently rubbishing that very notion -- if he's a "Catholic" we can claim him a little bit, and if he's a "Protestant" we can't. If we really did believe in a United Ireland, surely it would make no difference?

The truth is that many of us feel an affinity with McIlroy on the perfectly reasonable grounds that he's definitely some sort of an Irishman, that he lives just up the road, and that he learned some of his golf on our fine courses. And we can feel that affinity without ever needing him to drape himself in the tricolour, as others would insist that he do.

People who are not eejits have always been able to make these accommodations, even to reconcile any minor inconsistencies that may exist there. So his father Gerry probably called it just about right when he carried the flag, not of Great Britain, or the Republic of Ireland, but of Northern Ireland, where he and his family have lived and worked all their lives, and which as far back as the Titanic has not exactly been supplying the world with happy endings.

In fact, in terms of natural justice and common sense and personal safety and every other thing it was so right, it was bound to offend any card-carrying eejit to the core of his being.

But here's another truth -- even they will be backing Rory to win the British Open.

Sunday Independent