Conor Mallaghan (Carton House), Richard Hills (Ryder Cup Director, European Tour), Redmond O’Donoghue (Chairman, Failte Ireland), George O’Grady (Chief Executive, European Tour), Arlene Foster (Tourism Minister, Northern Ireland Executive) Darren Clarke and Philip Tweedie (Captain, Royal Portrush) on the 18th green at Royal Portrush Golf Club after the announcement that the Irish Open will be played at Royal Portrush in 2012 and Carton House in 2013. (Photo by Patrick Bolger/Getty Images)Ulster pride in major winners Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke could help end the search for an Irish Open sponsor.

The event will be staged on the world famous Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush from June 28 to July 1 while Carton House in Co Kildare will host in 2013.

And with Irish Open mania in full swing in Northern Ireland, the European Tour is hopeful that it can end a three-year quest for a backer.

European Tour boss George O’Grady revealed: “We’ve already had a lot of enquires from additional commercial interests.”

O’Grady added that the event will have a prize fund of at least €2m - a significant increase considering the purse was slashed from €3m to €1.5m last season.

He added: “We have been urged to play more events on great links courses and we are delighted to make this announcement today.”

The loss of title sponsors “3 Mobile” in 2009 was a huge blow to the tournament and it took major investment by Failte Ireland to keep it afloat in Killarney.

Attracting a mega-field to the Antrim venue is the next step and all of Ireland’s current major winners are confident that the stars from both sides of the pond will turn up for the first Ulster staging since 1953.

US Open champion McIlroy, who shot a course record 61 at Portrush as an amateur, said: “It’s a superb set-up and players new to the course are going to love it.

“The rescheduling of the Irish Open to late June is also a great plus given that the Open Championship takes place three weeks later.

“Hosting an event on one of the best links courses in the world that close to an Open Championship, is sure to generate a strong field.

“The course holds great memories for me; from watching my dad play in the North of Ireland there as a toddler to playing in it myself as a 15 year old and shooting a course record 61.”

Portrush residents Clarke and McDowell have promised to try and convince pals from both sides of the Atlantic to tee it up.

Clarke said: “It is fantastic news that an event of the calibre of the Irish Open is coming to Portrush, a world class event on a world class golf course. I know every inch of this course and can vouch for its quality.”

And Dubliner Padraig Harrington reckons that a few big names will make the trip to one of his favourite tracks to get ready for The Open.

Harrington said: “The Northern Irish public love their golf, always turn out in great numbers, and I’m sure will generate a great atmosphere.

“In addition, it is the perfect place to play links golf in the build-up to the Open Championship and I eagerly look forward to taking part.”

The return of the Irish Open to Carton House in 2013 will co-incide with a worldwide Tourism campaign known as “The Gathering” which hopes to bring millions of tourists to Ireland.