What does McIlroy’s pending decision for Team GB mean to the rest of us?

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It’s easy to forget how long Ireland has gone about the sporting world without the least sign of serious success. When Padraig Harrington became the first Irish man since Fred Daly to win the Open it was only 2007. Rory McIlroy won a silver medal as top amateur in the same year.

With Harrington joined by GMac, Darren Clarke and the boy from Holywood, modern Irish golfers have redefined what success looks like… Christy O’Connor Snr was in or near the top of the class for ten years, yet never won a Major golf championship. In fact, he only ever played in one of them (The Open)…

Well, in the old days you were just Irish in golf if you felt it. Indeed, you were still availably Irish to your fans, even if you didn’t actually feel it. It’s hardly surprising. In one  of the oldest team competitions in senior gold, the Ryder Cup, British and Irish golfers have been joined at the hip ever since it began.

But with Rio 2016 coming up, Golf is to be an Olympic sport. The gordian knot that’s bound golfers on these islands (at senior level at least) is now to be cut. Rory McIlroy is preparing his local fans for the decision that feels the more natural to him, ie to play for Team GB.

Somewhere, maybe ten or fifteen years back, Edna Longley wrote of Northern Ireland as a cultural corridor with access to both ‘Ireland’ as a place and an idea, and ‘Britain’ in the same regard.

But even southern Irish voices are commonplace on the modern British media. And British media has been common fare in Dublin ever since television was launched there fifty years ago this year. London has been a influential cultural and economic annex for Irish born migrants for generations.

It may be that the very closeness of these ties that has led from time to time to such huge outbursts of strident unreason.

Representative sport at international level, such ambiguities are harder to express. Darran Gibson’s departure for the Republic of Ireland’s soccer team brought similar howls of derision as now being heard on the virtual pages of the Irish Times and the Daily Mail about where McIlroy’s sentiments lie.

The Belfast Agreement changed matters. If has not changed the actual names of places, it has super charged the politics these names invoke.

The Republic of Ireland – with its constitution now shorn of any pretended ownership of the whole island – is now widely referenced as ‘Ireland’; rendering the geographical island itself ‘an idea without a name’. Americans routinely refer to Ireland and Northern Ireland as though they were mutually exclusive zones.

One reason cited for why nationalist youngsters are so keen to play for the Republic is that they see it as a legitimate expression of their Irishness; matching their right to carry an Irish passport. But as the McIlroy case ably demonstrates that door swings both ways into and out of Northern Ireland.

So what may have been ambiguous before, is now concrete. The next Irish fan contemplating throwing a tricolour at a victorious Northern Irish golfer may not be quite so careless of the private sentiments of such individuals in future.

Northern Ireland may not quite be as British as Finchley, but then again  nor is it as Irish as the Mayfield estate in Cork City that gave birth and shape to one of the Republic of Ireland’s (and Manchester United’s) finest captains in the modern soccer era, Roy Keane.

Post Belfast (or if you insist, Good Friday) Agreement individual choices matter more than they ever did before. Not only in sport, but in politics too.

Those keen to excoriate McIlroy for this ‘wrong’ decision might do well to consider that the long term future of Northern Ireland will depend on thousands of such gut decisions.

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  • GEF

    Interesting opinion on McIlroy’s “Choice of Nationality subject” by Tom English in “The Scotsman”:

    Rory McIlroy refusing to be a pawn

    This was the wearying nonsense that McIlroy has tried to avoid. He wasn’t rejecting the Republic and wasn’t embracing the Union, he was merely refusing to be a pawn in the game of the people who view these things with importance.

    http://www.scotsman.com/sport/golf/tom-english-rory-mcilroy-refusing-to-be-a-pawn-1-2529419

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    GEF He hasn’t suceeded in avoiding the wearying nonsense due to his giving an interview to the Mail which could only have resulted in the raising of this particular spectre. Interesting to note the silence from those on unionist side who whinge about about NI football players who avail of IFA youth training facilities and then go off to the FAI afterwards, and have apparently no problem with McIlroy doing much the same thing with the GUI and now openly talking about going over to the British olymic team
    and only later putting out the staement that he hadn’t definitely decided re the Olmpicas. The cat was already out of the bag then.

  • GEF

    danielsmoran, at least footballers have a choice between joining either the IFA or FAI. Amateur golfers born in NIR don’t have any choice they must join the GUI like it or lump it. Maybe this nasty issue will push Unionist MLA’s to press ahead at Stormont to form a Golf Union for NIR for all amateurs born in Northern Ireland, so some poor kid like McIlroy does not have to go through all this nonsense again.

  • salgado

    daniel – there isn’t really the same issues with the funding of youth training in golf. It’s an all-Ireland organisation (including the British parts), the FAI isn’t.

    As the general secretary of the GUI said,
    “Personally, I wouldn’t see it as an insult for the GUI if a player chooses to play for Great Britain. Many of our programmes are funded by golfers who are British as well as Irish.”

  • GEF

    Indeed salgado, danielsmorgan may not have seen the recent newsletter article. see here:

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/local/no-problem-if-rory-tees-off-for-gb-says-golf-boss-1-4250756

  • john

    GEF
    Maybe this nasty issue will push Unionist MLA’s to press ahead at Stormont to form a Golf Union for NIR for all amateurs born in Northern Ireland, so some poor kid like McIlroy does not have to go through all this nonsense again.

    Are you for real -nasty- this whole situation has been of McIlroys own making note well no previous golfer from Northern Ireland has ever gotten into such a mess over the issue. As for the GUI it already does a very good job throughout Ireland North and South.

    The comparisons with football are ridiculous. Ask McLean or Gibson why they switched
    a) More likely to play in major finals, golf in the olympics is an individual event it wont make a difference who he plays for.
    b) History of sectarian problems at windsor park, pretty sure golf supporters at internationals are few in number and well behaved
    c) Playing under foreign flag and anthem, this is fair enough and golf like rugby should ditch the soldier song and have 4 province flag or something.

    The funding is a red herring. Mc Ilroy received 15000 under the GUI so hardly earth shattering likewise the IFA input to player development is pretty limited as most of the expense will be covered by the players club.
    Finally fair play to the boss of the GUI for showing a bit of maturity on the subject if we must compare to the football then his behaviour is the complete opposite to the IFA and Worthington. Michael O’Neil seems to be a bit more sensible he tried to get players back like Wilson and when he was politely declined just got on with the important job of managing Norn iron

  • GEF

    “Are you for real -nasty-”

    John, Very real, and certainly not NASTY. If football have two unions why can’t golf? It is called democracy.

    “The funding is a red herring.”

    The begrudgers over funding came out on RTE and the Irish media by republican sympathisers who because they could not use McIlroy as a political pawn are now being NASTY.

    In one Irish republican rag Rory & the Duchess of Cambridge are being called “GOATS” see here:

    http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Kate-Middleton-Rory-McIlroy-on-our-Heroes-and-Goats-list-this-week-169944986.html

  • GEF

    “this whole situation has been of McIlroys own making note well no previous golfer from Northern Ireland has ever gotten into such a mess over the issue.”

    No previous golfer from Northern Ireland has been listed as No1 in the world. The media hounded him over the Nationality issue, and the kid just decided to let them know. Now republican elements from down south can’t accept the truth.

  • john

    Dont want to get bogged down on Kate Middletons mistake but did note the republican rag also has the RIRA down as a bunch of goats

  • HeinzGuderian

    “The begrudgers over funding came out on RTE and the Irish media by republican sympathisers who because they could not use McIlroy as a political pawn are now being NASTY.”

    The nail has been hit squarely on the bonce !!!

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Mr Joe. Tony O’Cascarin was the obviously Italian player under Charlton who even admitted himself he had no claim to be in the RoI side back in the Italia ’90 and US ’94 era.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Thanks, Daniel (I thought BJ would have told me).
    I take it you mean that he actually played for Ireland. Seems a long while ago and seems that Jackie played loose and free.

  • grandimarkey

    @danielsmoran

    Tony O’Cascarin was the obviously Italian player under Charlton who even admitted himself he had no claim to be in the RoI side back in the Italia ’90 and US ’94 era.

    Tony Cascarino was quoted as writing in his autobiography, “I didn’t qualify for Ireland. I was a fraud. A fake Irishman”.

    He was actually mistaken. His Grandfather was Irish however because his Mother was adopted he had no Irish blood and therefore, in his eyes, he should never have played for Ireland. However if you read Section 11 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 and sections 2 to 5 of the Adoption Act, 1991 you will see that his Mother’s adoption made her an Irish Citizen and as such he was perfectly entitled to play for Ireland.

    It still makes for a pretty funny story though!

  • JR

    When ROI played Italy in world cup 94 in New York there was a huge Irish crowd. Apparantly Jack Charlton turned to Tony Cascarino as the crowd roared when they entered the stadium and said “Caz your the only Italian in here”

  • GEF

    Instead of playing golf in the Next Olympics (which should be for amateurs only) why do they not have a Golf World Cup championship every 4 years just like the Football World Cup do then Scotland, Wales, England, NIR and ROI can all put their teams forward to play.

  • john
  • GEF

    “For the record Scotland, England and Wales are also all represented and all have won the title in the past”

    Thanks John, I questioned why not every 4 years like football is with say a larger team (say 4 or 6). NIR was not represented in 2011 & one wonders did Rory & GMac lose heart not being able to play for their home country NIR, when Scotland, England & Wales were all represented instead. Could this be another reason why Rory has let the cat out of the bag he is considering choosing GB this time (for Olympics) as both he an GMac played for Ireland last time and lost. Is he sending a message to the Ireland team please don’t ask me in 2013 as I feel More British than Irish, and don’t want to offend?

    This is another good reason why a Golf Union for NIR should be formed, otherwise this border issue is going to continue?

  • GEF

    “There already is a golf world cup every 2 years. Rory and Gmac played for Ireland at the last 2 tournaments and t think that is why some people feel a switch to GB at Rio might be strange.”

    Wonder what those people thought of this one John?

    World Cup Opening Ceremony Restaged After Rory GMac Flag Cock-Up
    http://www.golfcentraldaily.com/2011/11/world-cup-opening-ceremony-restaged.html

  • john

    lol, Graeme already sounds like one and give Rory another few years to perfect his American accent!

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    grandimarkey. It’s a convoluted route to becoming Irish alright but was worth it for Charlton’s quip in the Giant’s stadium alone.

  • GEF

    Has the time come for organisers of Irish World Cup Golf to create their own flag instead of flying the Irish constitutional flag (tri colour) like the Irish Cricket & Rugby teams have? See here:

    Ireland cricket team
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ireland_cricket_team
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cricket_Ireland_flag.svg

    Ireland rugby team
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ireland_national_rugby_union_team
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:IRFU_flag.svg

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    GEF,

    Perhaps they could all adopt a common sporting banner?

  • GEF

    “Perhaps they could all adopt a common sporting banner?”

    Good idea, but maybe its to late now, here is a republican poll result to say they would ” bear him no grudge but I couldn’t support him if he wasn’t playing for Ireland: (62.5%)”
    http://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/22229

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    And can you tell us how many people who read that rag</del? well regarded mag and how many respond to leading questions?

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Oops;
    well regarded mag and how many respond to leading questions?

  • GEF

    Good question Joe, Stormont sports minister Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin certainly intends to support Rory whatever country he chooses to play for. She said recently
    “As was the case during the past Olympic and Paralympic Games, and indeed in all sporting endeavours, I support local athletes and wish them every success.”
    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/local/no-problem-if-rory-tees-off-for-gb-says-golf-boss-1-4250756

  • Mark

    Forget the Olympics …….Ryder Cup is what golf is all about . Poulter about to level ( fingers crossed ) ….10 / 10 . Any thoughts Heinz ( if you’re still talking to me ) ?

  • lamhdearg2

    how far are they in mark, (I dont do sky)

  • Mark

    11/ 11 …LD …..US needs fourteen and a half to win , starting to feel the pressure …projected score at the moment is 14 /14 which means Europe retains the Cup .

  • lamhdearg2

    nice

  • lamhdearg2

    I have gone to 5live

  • Mark

    Might of spoken to soon …..12 / 11 to the US .

  • lamhdearg2

    back in the mix

  • lamhdearg2

    opps, heehee.

  • Mark

    Can Tiger save the day ?????????

  • lamhdearg2

    well done he italian, presure what presure.

  • lamhdearg2

    pressure, back on.

  • lamhdearg2

    com’on the Hun,

  • Mark

    Amazing fightback by the Europeans ….American over confidence surely a factor in their demise . What odds on this result this morning ?

  • lamhdearg2

    usausausa,sssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

  • Mark

    Deserve to win it outright …come on Francesco

  • Mark

    Nice touch by Tiger ….

  • southernrhodesia

    @Backbencher

    if Rory was a prod I don’t believe there would be as big a fuse [sic]. What does that say about Nationalism?

    ….maybe that Nationalism has long since expected NI “prods” to be Unionist….Nationalism would comprise pretty silly people if they hadn’t picked that up by now.