An aerial view of the fifth at Royal Portrush.The Irish Open could be about to make a shock return to Royal Portrush this summer - 12 months earlier than planned.

According to two sources connected with the event, the European Tour is believed to be preparing to make an announcement later this week after confirming before Christmas that Irish Open would not be returning to Killarney for a third successive staging.

Tour officials appeared to make it plain late last season that a return to the Dublin area was preferrable for the Irish Open as it would make it easier for them to secure a title sponsor.

Carton House in Co Kildare was considered by many to be the front runner to play host to US Open champion Rory McIlroy and Co for the first time since 2006 though tour officials insisted shortly before Christmas that nothing had been decided regarding the venue and there were many other courses interested in hosting.

However, with McIlroy and Portrush residents Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell all now major winners, it is believed that the tour and the Northern Ireland government are keen to ride that momentum and bring forward plans to take the Irish Open back to Ulster for the first time since 1953.

Royal Portrush wants to host the Open Championship itself and while that appears unlikely in the short term due to political and logistical reasons, the Irish Open is considered the logical “test” event for staging a major.

However, while it was believed that the funds were not in place to host the Irish Open in the North until 2013, Royal Portrush is again being mentioned a potential venue from June 28 to July 1 this year.

A spokesman for tournament backers Failte Ireland insisted last month that decision on the venue was out of their hands and would be made by the European Tour.

McIlroy and McDowell have let it be known that while they enjoyed the atmosphere at Killarney, they were not huge fans of the golf course.

Portrush last staged the Irish Open in 1947 when Harry Bradshaw triumphed on the famous Dunluce Links. The event was also held there in 1936 and 1930.