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Boxer Michael Conlan understands Rory McIlroy's decision to miss Rio Olympics

Rory McIlroy, pictured at Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 clash with Germany on Tuesday night, has withdrawn from this summer's Olympic Games
Neil Loughran

GOLD medal hope Michael Conlan has supported Rory McIlroy’s decision to pull out of the Rio Olympics due to fears over the Zika virus – but insists he has never considered withdrawing from this summer’s Games.

Speculation has surrounded McIlroy for weeks after the Holywood golfer revealed at the Irish Open earlier this month that he was considering whether or not to travel to Brazil.

Days later he announced his intention to compete after all, but yesterday the world number four confirmed he will not be available.

McIlroy is one of a number of high-profile golfers to pull out with Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Marc Leishman and Vijay Singh having already said they will not travel to Brazil.

But west Belfast boxer Conlan – a bronze medallist at London 2012 - says concerns over the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects in babies, haven’t come into his thoughts.

“He’s obviously looking to start a family very soon, so I understand why he’s made his decision,” said Conlan of McIlroy.

“I have a young child already, but I’m not looking to have any babies in the near future so it’s not going to bother me.

“The only thing I’ve been thinking about is an Olympic gold medal so a virus isn’t going to stop me.”

Watch Rory talking about the Olympics at the US Open

McIlroy – who had chosen to represent Ireland at the Games rather than Great Britain – has been targeted by Twitter trolls following his decision, and Conlan feels any abuse aimed his way is undeserved.

He added: “I have no objections to him pulling out – if that’s the reason, that’s the reason.”

Conlan’s fellow Olympic hopeful Steven Donnelly was less convinced, suggesting that McIlroy had “no interest really” in going to the Games.

And, like his Irish team-mate, the Ballymena banger says Zika won’t stop him chasing his dream.

He said: “It hasn’t really crossed my mind. There’s a very low chance of catching it so I won’t let it bother me at all.”

Two-time Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes didn’t want to comment when contacted yesterday, though he did tweet McIlroy after the golfer’s announcement, joking: “Just tell the truth mate you didn’t want to room with me.”

In a statement released yesterday morning, McIlroy said he had reached the decision “after much thought and deliberation”.

“After speaking with those closest to me, I've come to realise that my health and my family's health comes before anything else,” said the 27-year-old.

“Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take.

“I trust the Irish people will understand my decision. The unwavering support I receive every time I compete in a golf tournament at home or abroad means the world to me.

“I will continue to endeavour to make my fans and fans of golf proud with my play on the course and my actions off it.”

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