Carn youngster Aoife Kirby set social media alight recently after a picture with her and hero Rory McIlroy went viral.

The nine-year-old caught the attention of golf's global superstar at the Irish Open's pro-am event in Ballyliffin thanks to the 'I love Rory' tee-shirt she wore in a bid to stand out from the crowd.

Aoife's delighted mum Eileen Doherty explained: "Aoife's daddy Shane is a big golf fan, so she and my eldest Aela would be familiar with all the golfers, particularly the Irish ones.

"When she knew she was going to the pro-am, Aoife said 'will I meet Rory?' and I said 'maybe make a tee-shirt,' but it was just a flippant comment on my part more than anything.

"Well, Aoife and and Aela went upstairs and made the tee-shirt, and on the Wednesday we followed Rory around the course and hoped for the best."

When it reached the late stages of McIlroy's round and they'd still had no joy, it was starting to look as if Aoife's hopes were going to be dashed.

But her efforts were ultimately rewarded, when the four-time major winner finally picked her out of the packed crowd - with just one hole to spare.

"Rory wasn't really stopping for a lot of autographs," said Eileen, "and I didn't think we were going to have much joy.

"But then, when he was leaving the 17th hole, he spotted her. He found the tee-shirt very funny and Aoife was delighted when he came over to chat and take pictures."

And the Carn girl's delight reached even greater heights when she learned that the encounter was soon spreading like wildfire on social media.

Ulster Golf NI posted the pictures on their Twitter feed, and this in turn was shared on the Irish Open's official Twitter page.

Said Eileen: "Aoife couldn't believe it, and she said to me 'does that mean I've gone viral?'. She was over the moon about all of it.

"We just had such a fantastic day. My eldest Aela wasn't that bothered before we went, but afterwards she was saying 'can I go back?' she enjoyed it so much.

"The whole Irish Open has been brilliant. We watched a lot of the coverage on TV and they never stopped praising the event and commenting on the fabulous scenery and all the rest of it.

"Everyone in the community got behind it and John Farren must be so proud. This is something that will live on in the memory for years."

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