Mcilroy’s dilemma : us or them?

Rio will mark the first occasion golf has appeared at an Olympiad since 1904.

The 23-year-old insists he has yet to make a decision, amidst media speculation the Northern Irishman had chosen to compete for Great Britain.

McIlroy has long been confronted with questions concerning his national identity, since exploding into the public consciousness, by obliterating the field at Quali Hollow, to win his maiden PGA Tour title in 2010. Following his victory, the golfer was asked whether he considered himself British or Irish, to which he replied “Pass”, before adding, after a moment’s reflection, that he was Northern Irish but held a British passport.

His subsequent runaway Major victories at both the US Open and US PGA have signalled the birth of a genuine sporting superstar. McIlroy’s achievements have been greeted with admiration and astonishment from across Ireland and Britain. “I receive huge support from both Irish and British sports fans alike and it is greatly appreciated”, he says.

The individual nature of golf has enabled McIlroy to largely sidestep questions regarding his national identity. Golf’s inclusion at Rio has placed the world number one in an unenviable position.  The golfer has spoken eloquently on the issue, admitting he finds himself in an “extremely sensitive and difficult position”.

McIlroy has represented Ireland, both as an amateur and professional, most recently competing alongside fellow Ulsterman, Graeme McDowell, at the 2011 World Cup.

Golf in Ireland is organised on a cross border basis and McIlroy acknowledges the debt he owes the Irish game. “I am a proud product of Irish golf and the Golfing Union of Ireland and am hugely honoured to have come from very rich Irish sporting roots, playing for Ireland at all levels”.

The Hollywood native is also deeply proud of his Northern Irish roots; he has become a symbol of a new peaceful North. “I am also a proud Ulsterman who grew up in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. That is my background and always will be” he says.

McIlroy, a Catholic by birth, is of neither a religious or political disposition; he stands as a non- sectarian sporting ambassador, in the mould of George Best and Barry McGuigan before him.

It is possible McIlroy will decide to forgo the Olympics completely. The case of Derry born footballer, James McClean, illustrates the potential for sportspersons to be targeted on the basis of their cultural identity. McClean, was the victim of death threats following his decision to play for the Republic of Ireland.

Rory McIlroy is a Catholic from Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, and the island of Ireland. Now, just let him play golf.