William O’Connor admits his call-up to the Premier League is “a dream come true” as he bids to mark an historic debut in Dublin with victory over Michael van Gerwen.
O’Connor is the fourth of this season’s nine Challengers and is set for a rapturous reception in front of 9,000 fans at the 3Arena on Thursday.
The world number 37 has been rewarded for a landmark 2019 which saw him reach the World Cup of Darts final alongside Steve Lennon, as well as pick up a Players Championship title and reach the Quarter-Finals of the Players Championship Finals.
O’Connor is aiming to become the first Challenger to beat a Premier League player, but the task does not come much tougher than the world number one – for whom successive Premier League defeats are few and far between.
The 33-year-old, who has beaten MVG in a European Tour event in the Netherlands, is relishing the prospect of an upset on home soil.
“I wasn’t really expecting the call to play in the Premier League,” O’Connor revealed. “I was hoping for it, but it was nice to get it then when I got it.
“It will be a dream come true. In fairness, if I can pull off an upset, it couldn’t be any better either.
“At the end of the day, there’s a huge opportunity here to go up and hopefully perform very, very well.
“I’m not expected to win. Definitely I’m a huge underdog going into it, and I’m going to give it my very best.
“You never know; sometimes upsets happen and hopefully I can be the one to do it.”
Van Gerwen was held to a draw by John Henderson in Aberdeen last year but will be determined not to drop points this time around as he looks to atone for last week’s defeat to Nathan Aspinall.
For the first time since 2011, MVG has not claimed a title in the first two months of the season, but two ProTour finals and a tournament average of 102 in the Premier League suggest his best form may be just around the corner.
“Of course it’s always disappointing to lose, especially in the Premier League, but you have to bounce back,” said Van Gerwen.
“I’ve shown many times over the years I am good at bouncing back so we will see what happens on Thursday.
“In the Premier League you can never expect to win every game because you are playing against the best players in the world every week.
“I love playing in Dublin, the crowd there are always up there with the very best but I know they will get behind William this time.
“He will be up for the game, that’s for sure, but I know I have enough to get the job done.”