Rory McIlroy and Erica wedding sets Cong buzzing - Stevie Wonder pops into shop
Not since John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara strolled down Cong’s Main Street for the 1951 epic The Quiet Man has the Mayo village seen such excitement as that over the wedding of golf superstar Rory McIlroy (27).
The Co Down golfer will wed his US fiancee Erica Stoll (29) tomorrow in a ceremony at 13th-century Ashford Castle marked as much by its sumptuous arrangements as by the tight security around the 350-acre estate. The castle, once owned by the Guinness family and focus of a plush restoration just four years ago, was strictly off-limits yesterday to all but invited guests.
The lavish four-day wedding ceremony is understood to cost more than €500,000.
US superstar Stevie Wonder arrived on Thursday night to perform at the wedding - and then delighted a local trader with a surprise visit to his shop.
Apple reseller Compu B, based in Galway, tweeted a picture of the Motown legend with the message ''He just called to say … pleasure to have the one and only #StevieWonder in our #Galway store this afternoon !!"
Private security officials were stationed at all entrances to the sprawling estate outside Cong village from early morning — and access beyond the outer limits was strictly by special security wristband only.
Around Ashford Castle, a small army of caterers and wedding planners — most of whom are staying at Ryan’s Hotel in Cong — were hard at work for Saturday’s ceremony.
Even teams of street cleaners were working to have all approach routes to Ashford Castle spotless.
Most guests are expected to arrive by helicopter though the wedding party travelled to Cong village on Wednesday.
One local was adamant that he spotted the golfer driving through the village on Wednesday afternoon in a Porsche.
Locals also claimed the golfer and his friends — who held his stag party earlier this month in the US — relaxed yesterday with some clay pigeon shooting in the grounds of Ashford Castle.
Throughout the day, fleets of Jeeps and limousines, all with blackened security glass, swept into the luxury castle estate.
The singer was secured at the personal request of the golfer because his New York-born wife-to-be is a huge fan of the soul and pop star.
The wedding is expected to prove a who’s who of not just the Irish celebrity scene but the international sporting world. Rumoured guests are expected to include One Direction’s Niall Horan, a good friend of Mr McIlroy, as well as Chris Martin from Coldplay.
Ed Sheeran is also a good friend of the golfer, but any visit to the Mayo wedding may be ruled out by the fact that the singer-songwriter has scheduled concerts in Manchester this weekend for his new Divide tour.
The golfer has said his favourite music includes work by both Coldplay and Ed Sheeran.
The sporting world is expected to be represented by golfer Padraig Harrington and other Irish members of the Ryder Cup team.
Mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor is also expected to attend having joined the golfer on his Miami stag party.
Irish businessmen including JP McManus, a major supporter of Mr McIlroy’s charities, is also expected to attend.
In Cong village, locals said they hadn’t recalled such excitement since the 1951 filming of The Quiet Man and the 1984 visit by President Ronald Reagan.
Gerry Collins, founder of The Quiet Man Museum and film location walking tours, said the wedding will be “a tourism bonanza for Cong”.
“I think this is going to give Cong and the whole area an enormous boost,” he said. “There is already a great atmosphere around the village and even the tourists, who are here for the local beauty and The Quiet Man sites, are asking about the big wedding.
“Of course Pierce Brosnan got married here in Cong as well, so this is a special place for celebrity weddings.”
Westlife’s Shane Filan also got married in Cong. “Hopefully, Rory McIlroy’s decision to get married in Ashford Castle will persuade a few more A-listers to walk down the aisle here,” Mr Collins said.
For some, Rory McIlroy wasn’t the main attraction.
Aoife Ferry (12) from Strabane, Co Tyrone, was on holidays in Cong with her mother, Ann-Marie, and was on the look-out for wedding guest Niall Horan.
“I’m a big One Direction fan,” she said. Even American tourists were getting in on the act.
“I’m a serious golf fan so it’d be great to catch a glimpse of Rory,” Dave Blackman from New Jersey said.
“I’m a fan of Phil Mickelson and the US Ryder Cup team but it’d be nice to wish Rory well for his wedding, even if he plays for Europe.”
The decision to select Ashford Castle for their wedding was an easy one for Rory McIlroy and Erica Stoll to make.
The couple — who have been dating for over four years — have brought in the New Year at the lavish estate for the past three years.
Cong’s impressive list of celebrity guests over the years also includes Prince Edward, Princess Grace, Prince Rainier, Eric Clapton and Jack Charlton.