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Lowry up for battle of Ireland in Lough Erne clash

Northern Ireland will take on the Republic in the annual Lough Erne challenge in Fermanagh this summer.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy will this year team up with fellow Ulsterman Darren Clarke to take on Padraig Harrington, whom he beat in a singles match to the title last year, and reigning Irish Open champion Shane Lowry.

The fourball betterball match on Wednesday July 21 will be played over the full 18 holes of the Sir Nick Faldo designed course.

Last year more than 6,000 people attended as McIlroy beat Harrington by two shots with his four under par total of 68.

But his year the crowd will be strictly limited to 5,000 and admission will be by ticket only.

“Last year was a great success and I'm looking forward to playing it again,” said McIlroy, who was in Fermanagh to promote the event yesterday.

“It was great to be able to take the scalp of a three-time Major winner last time, and I'm going to be doing my best to do the same this time with Darren.

“Having four of us will make it that bit more interesting.”

Darren Clarke said he was delighted to have been included in the challenge this summer.

“Playing professional golf in your own country is special and to represent Northern Ireland will be unique.

“I am looking forward to being on the first tee at Lough Erne with Rory and showing Padraig and Shane some Northern Irish hospitality.

“Nick Faldo has done a great job in a special location and I hope we can deliver something special to the fans that support us.”

The event is being played the week after the Open Championship at St Andrew's and the week before Lowry defends his Irish Open title at Killarney.

“A lot of people heard about last year's event or saw it on television,” said Lowry (above).

“To be included in the Republic alongside Padraig is very exciting for me.

“Rory and Darren will obviously have the bulk of the support but we'll be giving it everything we have, to win.”

Belfast Telegraph