Tuesday 22 October 2019

'I'm excited to play for Ireland' - Rory McIlroy set for Olympics U-turn ahead of Tokyo 2020

Rory McIlory. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty
Rory McIlory. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy will go for gold for Ireland in the Olympics in Japan next year — four years after leaving Paul McGinley in the lurch in Rio.

The Holywood star (30) cited the Zika virus as his reason not to tee it up in Brazil in 2016, saying just weeks before the Olympics that he'd probably only tune in to watch sports like 'track and field, swimming, diving - you know, ones that matter.'

McIlroy, who represented Ireland throughout his amateur career and committed strongly to the Olympics in 2014 before changing his mind, said his decision to pencil Tokyo 2020 into his schedule was helped by the as yet unofficial appointment of the Golfing Union of Ireland National Coach Neil Manchip as Olympic team leader, and the chance to rekindle the good memories of his amateur career.

"I think as a young boy it was always my dream to play for Ireland," McIlroy said at the US PGA Championship.

"I wanted to play for Ireland. I was very proud to put on that shirt or that blazer.

"It's the same as like the rugby players, right? There's players that play for Ulster, but they want to play for Ireland. It's seen as a whole island sport, just like hockey is, just like most of the sports are.

"So then obviously when you put the Olympics into the equation and then there's a choice to be made, you really have to start thinking, okay, well, what are your beliefs and your values and it makes you sort of have to delve a little bit deeper.

"It's not just a superficial decision. It's something that you have to really believe in.

"I've thought about that for a long time, and in the end, it was the fact that when I was a little boy and I got that first call up to the national squad to go on to Citywest and be a part of the youth system or the boys or whatever, you know, and making that team and playing in home internationals, I was so proud to do that.

"So why would it be any different just because it's a different golf tournament or because it's a different arena or a different environment?

"That was basically what it came down to. I mean, I had an unbelievable amateur career, and I don't mean that in terms of results, but I mean that in the experiences I had and the trips that I had and the friendships that I made and the friendships that I still have to this day.

"That was all because of playing for Ireland and getting close to some of those guys.

"I'm excited to be going to the Olympics. I'm excited to play for Ireland. I'm excited that Neil Manchip, who was our national coach when I was an amateur, is going to lead the team.

"I don't know who might be going on that team, as well, whether it's Shane or Seamus or whoever, but yeah, I'm excited for it. It's going to be a great experience, and probably a little bit nostalgic because it'll bring me back to 15 years ago, whenever I was doing that with the same people, with Neil, with Shane. So it's going to be cool."

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