By Brian Keogh
Eamonn Darcy battled through the pain barrier to keep his AIB Irish Seniors Open dream alive at punishing Palmerstown House.
But the Delgany man was keeping his fingers crossed last night that his excruciating back pain would ease up and allow him to tee it up in the second round.
As playing partner Stewart Ginn of Australia gave himself an early 58th birthday present to lead with a 67, Darcy hobbled home four off the pace after a 71.
And the former Ryder Cup ace was not too optimistic about his chances of carrying on after failing to track down his doctor for a pain-killing jab.
Darcy groaned: "I just played with a lot of pain out there. My back is at me and I was struggling to finish. I am real happy to shoot one under par.
"My rotator cuff was giving me the problems in Italy and I had some injections. But this is my old thing - the facet joint in my lower back.
"Over the winter I get none of this problem because I don't play. But when I start rotating, it aggravates.
"When you come out after a long break you start pounding a few balls instead of maybe just hitting 20 or 30. You get carried away and it just flares up."
Forced to pull out of the Italian Open two weeks ago, Darcy still managed to reel off one birdie and 17 pars to share 10th place with defending champion Sam Torrance on one under par.
Denis O'Sullivan struggled to a two over par leaving Darcy as the leading Irishman.
Darcy added: "I am just glad to get in. I was moving the electric pads I have for my shoulder down to the bottom of my back but it is all wear and tear. Big time."
To make matters worse, Darcy had to look on as playing partners Ginn and Costantino Rocca hit rounds of 67 and 69 with six birdies between them in the last five holes.
Melbourne ace Ginn - who turns 58 today - did most of the damage over the tough closing stretch when he picked up four birdies on the trot from the 14th to lead by a shot from South Africa's Gavan Levenson.
Winner of the 2002 Ford Senior Players Championship in the US, Ginn hopes to break his European Seniors Tour duck after three second place finishes last term.
They included a play-off defeat to Torrance in last year's Irish Seniors Open and he won't be pushing his luck this year.
Ginn said: "I did push a bit too much for a win last year but it’s a matter of time. You can’t push it.”
Scot Torrance had two bogeys and a double bogey but still managed a one under par 71 to share 10th place with Darcy.
And while he knows it could have been a lot lower, he was delighted to impress son Daniel, who was on his bag for the first time.
Torrance said: "I actually played beautifully. I’m delighted with my game. I can’t wait for tomorrow.
"That’s the best feeling I’ve had this year. That’s what I need.
"Having Daniel on the bag was brilliant. I didn’t know how it’d affect me but it was wonderful. Every shot I wanted to show off, being his dad."
67 S Ginn (Aus).
68 G Levenson (Rsa).
69 A Tapie (USA), D Johnson (USA), C Rocca (Ita).
70 G J Brand (Eng).
71 D Creamer (Eng), P Oakley (USA), K Spurgeon (Eng), J Chillas (Sco), S
Torrance (Sco), E DARCY (Irel), H Carbonetti (Arg), J Bland (Rsa), J Bruner
72 P O'HAGAN (Ire), B Malley (USA), D Merriman (Aus), P LEONARD (Ire), A
Sowa (Arg), J HEGGARTY (Ire), G Encina (Chi), B Longmuir (Sco), M Clayton
73 R Carrasco (USA), I Mosey (Eng), B Heuchan (Can), B Lincoln (Rsa), T
Gale (Aus), T Allen (Eng), A Garrido (Spa), J Quiros (Spa), D Good (Aus), G
Ralph (Eng), C Mason (Eng), N Job (Eng), L Carbonetti (Arg), T Johnstone
(Zim), P Dugeny (Fra).
74 L HIGGINS (Ire), M Gray (Sco), R Drummond (Sco), M Pinero (Spa), D J
Russell (Eng), J Hawkes (Rsa), D O'SULLIVAN (Ire), A Fernandez (Chi), B
Cameron (Eng), G Watine (Fra), A MORROW (Irel, am).
75 S Owen (Nzl), J Rhodes (Eng), T Horton (Eng), J Rivero (Spa), T Rastall
(Eng), G Cali (Ita), N Ratcliffe (Aus), S Martin (Sco), E Rodriguez (Spa).
76 J Mashego (Rsa), B Larratt (Eng), T Charnley (Eng), P Teravainen (USA),
B Smit (Rsa).
77 L MacNAMARA (Ire, am), M Bembridge (Eng), D Cambridge (Jam).
78 D Durnian (Eng), M Poxon (Eng), J Lapsley (Nzl).
79 M Ferguson (Aus), V Garcia (Spa), E POLLAND (Ire).
80 B Shearer (Aus).
82 J Benda (USA).
89 D MORRIS (Ire, am).