Traditionally spared the gaudiest excesses of tabloid culture, Ireland tends to approach celebrity with a proud, studied ambivalence.
We know who you are and reserve the right to gossip about you, but our self-regard and crippling sense of awkwardness will usually keep us at arm’s length.
It’s a trait that makes Dublin – and by extension, Ireland – something of a haven for the overexposed. Beyoncé was spotted cycling around Stephen’s Green last year; Rihanna hosted a Thanksgiving bash at a nondescript pub a few months later. But such familiarity breed weakness.
We’re suckers for the con; gullible, earnest and, when celebrity comes calling, unquestioning in our deference.
Witness the events of the weekend before last, when a man claiming to be Mark O’Meara’s agent called a variety of Irish golf courses – Ballybunion, Adare Manor, Doonbeg and Lahinch among them – to reserve a casual round for his client and Rory McIlroy, both of whom, it was explained, would be attending that weekend’s Heinken Cup (rugby) semi-final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
The Irish Independent takes up the story with some comic aplomb:
“Well used to VIP visitors, Ballybunion saw nothing amiss and swept into action with their preparations. Extra catering arrangements were made, caddies took precise measurements to ensure their yardages were spot on, and the Old Course was in pristine condition for Rory and his entourage.
“Except they never showed — much to the disappointment of up to 100 young fans, club members and local media who had gathered from 7.30am. Most waited patiently until 11.30 when it became clear that McIlroy was a non-runner.”
Lesson well and truly learned.