A year later than originally planned, Mount Juliet Estate in Co Kilkenny is about to welcome golfing fans to its fairways and greens as it hosts the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open from tomorrow to Sunday.

The prestigious event has attracted top Irish players as well as a solid international cast.

It was due to take place at Mount Juliet in 2020 but the presence of Covid-19 restrictions in this jurisdiction meant a switch to Galgorm Castle in Co Antrim.

Instead, the Kilkenny layout is now one of the pilot events earmarked by the Government to allow spectators to attend.

The European Tour has sold 2,500 tickets for each of the four days of the tournament.

It is likely that as many people again will be present on the course and in the vicinity when players, caddies, coaching staff, volunteers, media and other people associated with the event are taken into account.

"It's going to be fantastic," said Simon Aliss, European Tour event director.

"We've been working really hard, waiting a long time to be able to welcome spectators and members and fans back to live sport. We're very excited."

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Organisers have been working with the Government, as well as the venue, to ensure safety and public health are maintained, Mr Aliss pointed out.

It's our home for the week and it looks even prettier from high above! ??

??@mountjuliet, Kilkenny, Ireland #DDFIrishOpen ?? pic.twitter.com/q0LYbYH9O8

— DDF Irish Open (@DDFIrishOpen) June 30, 2021

While numbers are well down on what would be expected in a normal year, they still expect a warm atmosphere.

"I think we're going to see some excited crowds and some really happy people," Mr Alliss said.

While testing is not compulsory for spectators, those attending will have been sent a health questionnaire with their tickets and Covid protocols will be in place.

General Manager of Mount Juliet Estate, Mark Dunne, said the owners and staff have put a lot of effort and commitment into ensuring the venue could host the Irish Open.

"It's wonderful to have ownership that will back such an amazing occasion and bring this event to life again," he said.

"When you walk around the estate over the last couple of days, Simon and his team, what they are bringing to life here is really special.

"For Kilkenny, for the southeast region, Ireland's ancient east, it's very important for building our brand and building who we are and what we're all about.

"I've no doubt after what will hopefully be a spectacular weekend into Sunday, we'll have lots of people who will then come to Kilkenny and play the course and experience what the players did."

A worldwide audience of about 350 million people is expected to watch the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open over the weekend, making it an important showcase for the region and for Irish trade, according to Paul Keeley, Regional Director with Fáilte Ireland.

"It really does start to kickstart our recovery for the area. It gives us the opportunity to test protocols and make sure we can run sporting events with people at them and in a way that is safe," Mr Keeley said.

An event as big as the Irish Open has always provided a boost to local trade, wherever it goes, and this year is no different, albeit on a limited scale.

"I'm sure the locals will come out and support the occasion as well as the event," said Fred Malzard of Malzard's bar in nearby Stoneyford.

"I'm looking forward to meeting all my regulars here and having a lot of fun."