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O'Connor has will to top van Gerwen

Limerick man doesn't fear world No 1

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Willie O’Connor (pictured) from Limerick takes on Michael van Gerwen at the 3Arena tonight

Willie O’Connor (pictured) from Limerick takes on Michael van Gerwen at the 3Arena tonight

Willie O’Connor (pictured) from Limerick takes on Michael van Gerwen at the 3Arena tonight

Irish darts star Willie O'Connor believes he is ready to topple world No.1 Michael van Gerwen in tonight's PDC Premier League showdown at the 3Arena.

The darting pride of Limerick has been handed a guest 'challenger' pass as the darts circus comes to Dublin, with the draw for the fourth round of Premier League matches pitching him against world No 1 Van Gerwen.

Yet instead of fearing an encounter against the mighty Dutchman, 33-year-old O'Connor has told The Herald that he is relishing his chance to take on MVG.

"I can compete with Van Gerwen when I am at the top of my game," declares O'Connor. "I have beaten him before and he might not be the best form in his life at the moment, so that gives you a little lift.

"What you cannot do is feel intimidated by anyone. Whoever you play only have three darts to throw just like you, so there is no point in feeling nervous about a reputation.

"Having said that, this is not the draw anyone would pick. Michael is the world No 1 and the man everyone wants to beat, the best in the world, but what an opportunity this is for me to show what I can do in front of a big audience.

"Playing in front of the Irish fans against Van Gerwen on a night like this is something you have to look forward to."

O'Connor takes to the stage this evening keen to erase the memory of his heartache at the World Championships last December, as he had a chance to knockout No 3 seed Gerwyn Price and miscounted when he was going for a crucial double in the deciding set.

It was a heartbreaking moment for a player who quit his job as a carpenter last year to dedicate himself to a full-time darts schedule, but he trying to find a silver lining in that heartbreaking loss.

"I made a mistake, it cost me a big game and there is nothing more I can say or think about it," he reflected, philosophically.

"I didn't even know I had miscounted until afterwards, but then I saw the video of me going for double one when I was on double two. There is nothing I can do about it now.

"There are aspects of the game that I could pick out and regret apart from the miscount on the double. I dipped in form in parts of the game and let Gerwyn back in, so I might not have even got to that stage at the end if I had taken my chances a little earlier.

"You have to move on. Lesson learned, I suppose, and I have to try and make sure it doesn't happen again.

"There were a lot of things I did well against one of the best players in the world and I need to remember that.

"If I get in that position in this game against Van Gerwen in Dublin, hopefully the experience of what happened at the World Championships will stand me in good stead.

"This game is all about putting yourself in position to win and when you get there, you have to hold your nerve and take the chance. It is as much a mind game as anything else and I'm ready for this match against Michael."

With 10,000 Irish fans set to cheer him on, Van Gerwen will be in for a hot reception when he takes on the local Irish hero tonight.