Former Irish Olympian Jerry Kiernan has said there's "no passion for the Olympic Games among golfers", and claimed the Zika virus is not a strong enough reason to miss this summer's Games.

Ireland's three best medal hopes in the sport - Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell - have all pulled out of Rio due to concerns over the virus, airing fears over the health of themselves and their families. 

World number one Jason Day added his name to the list of high-profile withdrawals as he cited "concerns about the possible transmission of the Zika virus and the potential risks that it may present to my wife's future pregnancies and to future members of our family". 

However Kiernan, who represented his country in the men's marathon at the 1984 Games in LA, said that the main reason the players had pulled out was down to a lack of desire.

“I thought the whole notion of golf in the Olympics was pretty much ridiculous, in the same way I feel tennis shouldn’t be in the Olympics and football shouldn’t be in the Olympics," Kiernan told RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland. 

"To go to the Olympics and to do well, you couldn’t wish for anything better."

"Neymar, Messi and Suarez won’t be participating even though they’re from South America, so golf and the Olympics, it just doesn’t chime.

"I heard Padraig Harrington saying he dreams of playing in the Olympics – now he’s going to get his chance because everyone’s falling by the wayside.

"There is no passion for the Olympic Games among golfers. For the likes of me, the likes of Katie Taylor, the athletes who are going to go there, we dream about going to the Olympics; this was the apotheosis of our particular sport."

Commenting further on his decision to pull out, Day said: "It's a little bit different for us because we play week in week out... Golf has never been on anyone's radar in the Olympics."

"The World Health Organisation says that Rio is going to be perfectly safe."

Kiernan claimed the withdrawals essentially boiled down to priorities, with an appearance at a Games being lower down the list of a golfer's ambitions than many of the other competitors who will travel to Brazil dreaming of a podium finish. 

"To go to the Olympics and to do well, you couldn’t wish for anything better," he added. 

"Jason Day touched on it, he was pretty honest actually. He was saying, in a slightly roundabout way, the Olympics mean nothing to golfers.

“If all these golfers really badly wanted to go to the Olympics and of it was the greatest thing they could do in sport, the Zika Virus would be pushed to one side because it really isn't that big of a deal because there’s no instances, if I recall rightly, of people coming home after the World Cup two years with Zika issues.

"The World Health Organisation says that Rio is going to be perfectly safe. The athletes, the swimmers, the boxers, the rowers and the gymnasts, they have no problems with it at all.

"I suspect that it means far more to them, the Olympic Games, than it does to golfers."