PETER Robinson and Martin McGuinness put aside their political differences today to welcome home Open champion on Rory McIlroy.
But the 25-year-old arrived at Stormont Castle without the famous Claret Jug he had jetted into the province with yesterday with after Sunday’s win at Royal Liverpool.
It had taken pride of place at a Belfast nightclub on Monday night after he toasted his success with friends.
McIlroy apologised for not bringing it and after last night’s celebrations, he said: “It is in need of a bit of a clean!”
After welcoming him to Stormont, Mr Robinson had a word of advice for punters.
He told onlookers to “get their money on now” for more McIlroy victories.
The Holywood man lifted his first Open trophy after leading some of the world’s top golfers for all four days of the competition at the Hoylake course.
He is only the third golfer after Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus to win three major tournaments by the age of 25.
McIlroy said: “I’m obviously very proud and honoured to come back home as an Open champion and to be congratulated everyone.
“I’m very proud to be from Northern Ireland, I’m very proud of where I come from. I will never lose touch with that, I will never lose sight of that. I will never forget where I come from.
“To be able to share these sort of moments with people from back home and close friends and family, it’s absolutely wonderful.
“I’m sorry that I don’t have the Claret Jug with me. It’s not going everywhere with me. It actually needs a bit of a clean after last night. It’s an amazing trophy and obviously something that I’m obviously very proud of and hopefully there’s many more to come.”
The golfer was pictured on a night out with friends in Belfast on Monday night.
Peter Robinson said Rory had come to Stormont three years ago with his first major trophy.
“On this occasion, he has won the most important of all, the Open, and is on his way go getting the full collection, after he succeeds in getting the Masters,” he said.
“If you are a gambler, get your money on now and get the right odds for it.
“We are really proud of him, not only in terms of the achievement of a fantastic golfing career and the competitions that he has won, but he’s a tremendous ambassador for Northern Ireland.”
Martin McGuinness said he wanted to congratulate McIlroy on the “magnificent achievement” of winning the Open.
“It’s been absolutely a huge buzz for all of us,” he said.
“We are living in a world now where there is an awful lot of sadness.
“This just brings so much happiness and joy to all of use that one of our own is seen to be one of the greatest golfers in the world today – no mean achievement by the age of 25.
“Congratulations Rory. We are very proud of you and long may your success continue.”
McIlroy will defend his title in 2015 at St Andrews in Scotland.
However, he is now focusing on trying to win the grand slam of golf tournaments by getting the green jacket at the Masters in Augusta.