McIlroy’s opening 79 was bookended by a quadruple-bogey on the first and a triple-bogey on the last, but the four-time major winner bounced back with a 65 which earned him a deafening standing ovation on the 18th.
In the end it proved one shot too many to make the weekend and McIlroy needed time to compose himself as he completed his post-round media duties.
“Part of me is very disappointed not to be here for the weekend... I’m emotional but happy with how I played,” McIlroy said. “The support I got out there was incredible.
“Yesterday gave me a big mountain to climb, I dug in there, tried my best and showed resilience. It’s going to hurt for a little bit but I guess the good thing about golf is there is a tournament to play next week.
“But this has been a week I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
“I didn’t play my part but everyone in Northern Ireland came out to watch me. They definitely played theirs.
“It’s sort of hard because it’s loud from tee to green and once you’re over a putt it’s so silent and you almost notice that more.
“I still tried my very hardest, even on that last putt to finish off a really fun round the right way.”
McIlroy had birdied the third and seventh to reach the turn in 32 before rattling in a hat-trick of birdies from the 10th and bounced back from a bogey on the 13th to pick up another shot on the next.
The former world number one picked up another shot on the daunting 16th, where he carded a double bogey on Thursday by losing concentration and missing a tap-in, but was unable to find the birdie he needed on the last two holes.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry will take a share of the lead into the third round and McIlroy added: “I can’t wait to watch him over the weekend.
“Shane will relish these conditions and he’s the home boy up there now so he’s going to get all the support I got today and I would love nothing more than to see Shane get his name on that Claret Jug.”