Rory McIlroy 

They finally let the elephant out of the room in Indiana last week, a dirty big political elephant with Rory McIlroy’s fingerprints all over its back.

The elephant goes by the surname Olympics. His first name is now well and truly British, even though some people would like to call the elephant Irish Olympics.

After a couple of years of serious debate and not so serious speculation, we finally seem to know that Rory
McIlroy is likely to declare for Britain when the Olympic circus moves to Brazil four years from now.

For some time the wee man from the town of Holywood in Co. Down has been leaning this way and then that way in the great Olympic golf debate.

With the Rio games to include golf, speculation has been rampant and frequent about McIlroy’s flag of choice and his dual qualification to represent Britain or Ireland, but not both, in Brazil.

His golf schooling, for those who don’t know of such things, was all under an Irish umbrella as the Golfing Union of Ireland is a 32 county body and always has been.

As a result, McIlroy’s professional career was aided greatly by all the coaching he received as a kid courtesy of the GUI -- from a slush find paid for by subscriptions from golfers on both sides of the Irish border.
Golf in Ireland has always been proud to be clear of the political divide. That was never more obvious than this summer when Royal Portrush staged a hugely successful Irish Open and the likes of McIlroy, Graeme
McDowell and Darren Clarke delighted in the tournament’s visit North.

All three, like youngsters in all 32 counties on the island, have benefited from GUI assistance in the past, and all three have played international golf for Ireland. It goes with the territory and there has never been an issue with it.

Northern Ireland simply doesn’t have its own international team or its own golfing union and is unlikely to ever have either in the future.

Clarke, from a Unionist background, has even managed to stand under the orange part of the Irish Tricolor in a series of Ryder Cup celebration photos down through the years.

We’ve always known where Clarke stands on nationality. He is a proud Ulster man and a proud citizen of Northern Ireland, part of Great Britain.

Until now McIlroy has been an international man of mystery. He never quite said where he stands on the Olympic issue and which team he will play for in Rio. That’s why his interview with the English golf writer Derek Lawrenson this week has caused such a stir.

In the interview, conducted during a practice round before McIlroy continued his hot streak with victory in the BMW Championship, Rory declared that he has always felt more British than Irish.

The paper Lawrenson works for, as you would, then concluded that McIlroy is now most likely to declare his Olympic allegiance to Britain.

The player himself tried to backtrack on Monday when he issued an open letter to Irish fans trying to suggest he has yet to make up his mind, but the detractors are having a field day hurling abuse at him.

Personally, I now believe that McIlroy will represent Team GB if he qualifies for the golf in Rio, and I don’t really have a problem with that.

If he feels more British than Irish then good luck to him. If he is as grateful to the GUI as he says he is, then he should give them a huge chunk of money back to set up a foundation in his honor and ensure kids from both sides of the border get access to the best coaching. Just like he did.

Rory did make a big mistake this week, but not in declaring himself British. That’s his choice and good luck to him.

His mistake was to go public on it almost four years before the Olympics.

He could have kept quiet on the subject for at least another three and a half years and saved himself an awful lot of grief in an argument he was never going to win. He badly needs some good PR advice.

(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun in Dublin)

Cunningham Makes a Point
THE Galway manager Anthony Cunningham looks like the real deal, and a gesture of his towards the end of Sunday’s drawn All-Ireland hurling final proved it.

Kilkenny’s legendary boss Brian Cody got very animated when the referee awarded a late free for Galway which Joe Canning subsequently pointed to save the game for his side.

Cody is a big man in physical terms, and his presence on the sideline is huge in every sense.

Many other coaches and managers appear to be in awe of him when they try to mix it with the Kilkenny mentor and his team, but not Cunningham.

He got stuck into the Cats boss and gave as good as he got as things got heated between the pair of rival managers on the biggest day of the hurling calendar.

Their argument had no impact on the outcome of the game. Henry Shefflin and Canning were the chief protagonists in that department.

But it did send a clear signal to Cunningham’s own Galway players and to the opposition that the Connacht side, reigning Leinster champions as it happens, were not going to be subservient to any Kilkenny man.

That Cunningham act of defiance may not have been such a big deal in the final seconds of last Sunday’s game.

But it will act as a message of intent for both dressing rooms to analyze before the replay on Sunday fortnight.
Cunningham and Cody shook hands at the end of the game and insisted afterwards that all is well between the pair of them, but both know a major point was made on the sideline at Croker by the younger of the two managers.

Long term, that may be almost as valuable for Galway as Canning’s late, late equalizing point last Sunday.

Sideline Views
SOCCER: Ireland somehow managed to beat Kazakhstan 2-1 last Friday night, but it wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t deserved. Even former goalkeeper Shay Given admitted to the Irish Sun that the long ball tactics used by manager Giovanni Trapattoni have got to change before Germany come to Dublin next month. So bad was Ireland’s first competitive performance since the Euros that many fans called for Trapattoni’s head afterwards. It appears he is losing the supporters, and the lack of performance from the Irish team on Friday suggests Trapattoni is losing the players as well. Much more of this and he will lose his job too. And rightly so.

SOCCER: Stephen Kenny knows better than most that soccer is a results business, so the decision by the Shamrock Rovers board to sack him as manager on Tuesday will have come as no great surprise to the genial Dubliner. After a poor season by their high standards, Kenny’s fate was sealed when his team was beaten at home by Bohs on Monday night. No doubt Kenny will return to football, but don’t be surprised if former Irish boss Brian Kerr and one time Ireland striker David Kelly are linked with the job.

GAA: The All-Ireland football final is still over a week away, but already the towns of Donegal and Letterkenny are fighting over the homecoming venue for the Ulster champions. Donegal Town is the traditional venue whenever the county team come homes with a big trophy, and it seems that the people of Letterkenny want to change that now. It’s also a bit presumptuous to be thinking that way seeing as how Donegal have yet to beat Mayo in the final.

PARALYMPICS: Congratulations to Jason Smyth, Michael McKillop and Mark Rohan who all won gold medals on the double at the London Paralympics which concluded on Sunday. Middle distance runner McKillop also picked up an award for epitomizing the spirit of the Paralympics but each and every athlete who represented Ireland so magnificently over the last two weeks deserves credit.

JOE Canning and Henry Shefflin were the stand-out players in last Sunday’s drawn All-Ireland hurling final as Kilkenny and Galway served up a thriller at Croke Park. Leinster champions Galway needed a point from the last puck of the game to ensure a second bite at the cherry and it was entirely fitting that Canning should be the man to get the score that will bring both teams back to headquarters on the last Sunday in September.

JAMES McLean has quit Twitter after his latest dose of foot in mouth disease, and not a day too soon. No matter how frustrated McLean was at not getting onto the pitch in Kazakhstan last Friday night, he should not have launched into a foul mouthed rant on the social network. He’s lucky to be a professional footballer and luckier still to be allowed remain with the Irish squad by manager Giovanni Trapattoni.