By Brian Keogh

War horse Eamonn Darcy took one look at PGA National Ireland's 7,000 yard challenge and immediately backed Sam Torrance.

The big hitting Scot is the defending AIB Irish Seniors Open champion and injury-wracked Darcy can't see an Irishman ending a nine-year wait for a home winner.

While Cork's Denis O'Sullivan can join the European Seniors Tour's millionaire's club by taking the €67,500 winner's cheque, Darcy just can't see it happening this year.

Fighting a shoulder injury, Darcy said: "This is a long track and I like it. But it's an American course built in Ireland and even the walks between tees are enormous. I think Sam will love it.

"Hopefully I can hole a few putts but I wouldn't say I was confident coming in here. I am trying to project the injury a bit and it is a long course."

No Irishman has won the title since Joe McDermott triumphed at Woodbrook in 1998 and while Darcy hasn't totally ruled himself out of the running, he sees 6-1 favourite Torrance is the man to beat over the former Palmerstown House stud farm near Naas in Co Kildare.

Christy O'Connor Jnr’s share of third place in 2002 is still the best Irish performance since McDermott’s 1998 win and with Des Smyth playing on the Champions Tour in the US, Ireland could might have to wait another year for a home win.

Without a victory from over 40 senior starts, Darcy added: "I am overdue a win but you never know in this game. I just hope to hit a few good early shots and go from there."

While he shared 30th place in the Gloria Classic in Turkey three weeks ago, Darcy's season is under threat from a rotator cuff injury to his right shoulder.

He explained: "I am told by the experts that it is wear and tear on the rotator cuff and a piece of bone has chipped off it.

"If it doesn't settle down I might need an operation at the end of the season so I've had a few injections - pain killers and anti-inflammatories - and I also have an electrical device in my pocket as well which gives you pins and needles and eases the pain.

"But to be honest, there are not too many Irish guys out there with a chance. It is a long course and I would like to be a bit stronger coming in."

This year's €450,000 event will be the last edition with AIB as title sponsors and Torrance hopes a troubling case of tendinitis will not prevent him adding to last season's triumph and his two Irish Opens wins on the main tour

With one-handicap son Daniel, 18, on his bag for the first time the Scot is feeling good about his chances of lifting a Guinness in triumph on Sunday.

Torrance said: "I haven't got into my stride yet this season. But I feel I am well on the way with my swing. My hand is feeling a lot better and my son Daniel starts on the bag today, which is exciting for the Torrance family.

"He is a very good player himself so hopefully he will learn something and I might even learn something myself."

Ireland has nine men in the field with O'Sullivan, 59, hoping to bring his seniors tour career earnings over one million euro by claiming victory.

Rated a 100-1 shot with a best finish of tied 11th last year, the Corkman has changed his grip and gone back to an old putter in a desperate attempt to find a magic solution.

O'Sullivan said: "I've had a weak grip for years ever since I badly damage two fingers on my right hand during the 70s.

"But my grip is a lot stronger now and I can't believe how much better it feels. I should have done it years ago."

While he has six wins as a senior and banked almost €1 million since he turned professional ten years ago, O'Sullivan believes he will need to putt well to have a chance this week.

He said: "I dragged out an old putter last week, one that I used when I won most of my events on the Seniors Tour.

“I had probably last used it three years ago but it felt really good. Obviously I would love to win this event as it is my home title, but we’ll have to wait and see.”