While disappointed that Rory McIlroy has decided against representing Ireland at the Rio Olympics over the Zika virus, team leader Paul McGinley is respectful of the decision made by the County Down player.

McIlroy was due to represent Ireland as golf made a return to the Games for the first time since 1904, but has now followed Vijay Singh, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel in pulling out of the event which begins on 5 August.

A statement released this morning read: "After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero.

"After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realise that my health and my family’s health comes before anything else. Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take."

"The decision is made and we move forward with new representatives in golf for Ireland at the Olympics"

McGinley was made aware of McIllroy's decision late on Tuesday night.

"It was a surprise and it's disappointing, but understandable," was McGinley's reaction when he spoke to RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke.

"It's his decision. It's not something that I as team leader can not get involved in. The decision is made and we move forward with new representatives in golf for Ireland at the Olympics.

"This is a health concern that he has. He's discussed it with his family and has come to this conclusion. He notified us last night to say that 'this is the decision I've come to. This is what's going to happen'."

The decision by the world number four comes a month after stating that one of the reasons for competing at Rio was because he didn't want to let McGinley down.

McGinley, however, was quick to point out that he now does not feel let down.

"No, I don't. As as Irishman I'm disappointed, but it's not about me. With Rory we had a very legitimate chance of gold. We still have a lot of good players coming behind for us that could win a medal too, hopefully a gold, and we move forward in that direction," he explained.

"We have a lot of very strong players who will be representing Ireland and fingers crossed we will come home with a medal."

It's now expected that Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell will make up the Irish men's team, though qualification has still six weeks to run. Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow are are in pole place to be on the women's side.   

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Patrick O’Donovan, expressed his disappointment at the decision.

“While I understand Rory’s decision, I have to say that it is disappointing that Rory will not be representing Ireland at the Olympics in Rio,” the TD said.

“I fully respect his decision. The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) and their medical team have taken their lead from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the zika situation, as they do in all matters.

“I am aware that the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the Department of Foreign Affairs have also been liaising with the OCI concerning the Rio Games.

The International Olympic Committee has provided the OCI with every assurance and the OCI has indicated its confidence that the Rio Games will be safe for all athletes.”