European Tour official positive about future of Irish Open

European Tour commercial director James Finnigan

A key European Tour official says he envisages a bright future for the Irish Open after the successful staging of the tournament at Royal County Down.

The tour's commercial director James Finnigan explained he was hopeful the event would retain its title sponsor and Rory McIlroy's involvement.

"We are taking nothing for granted but talks are planned," said Finnigan.

The tournament will retain a similar date in the calendar in 2016 and will return to Northern Ireland in 2017.

Finnigan also revealed that discussions are already underway with the Northern Ireland Executive with a view to the event being played north of the border beyond the tournament at the Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh in two years' time.

"The players and the golfing public have enjoyed the principle of rotating between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and we are spoiled for choice for great golf courses on this island.

Recent winners of the Irish Open
2015 - Royal County DownSoren Kjeldsen (Denmark)
2014- Fota IslandMikko Ilonen (Finland)
2013 - Carton HousePaul Casey (England)
2012 - Royal PortrushJamie Donaldson (Wales)
2011 - KillarneySimon Dyson (England)
2010 - KillarneyRoss Fisher (England)

"We hope to agree a multi-year partnership with the Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish Government and our title sponsor, Dubai Duty Free. We've already had some very positive discussions with the NI Executive this week."

This year's Irish Open at Royal County Down attracted sell-out crowds of 20,000 for each of the four days of competition, with Soren Kjeldsen emerging as the winner at the first play-off hole.

World number one McIlroy's official charity, the Rory Foundation, hosted the event and Finnigan is keen for that association to continue.

"It is only through Rory's involvement that we were able to attract the world-class field that we had at Royal County Down. He has single-handedly lifted the Irish Open and taken it into a completely different era.

"We are keen that he stays involved but it is up to him to decide if he wants to continue."

No venue has yet been finalised for next year, but Finnigan outlined that "there are a number of interested parties and it is still a work in progress".

The K Club in County Kildare, the 2006 Ryder Cup venue, is believed to be among the front runners to host the 2016 tournament.