For 18 years no team could beat the Drifters at darts... then Fairhill stepped up to the oche
Published 23/02/2013 | 00:00
It could be a world record achievement in any sport – an 18-year unbeaten run.
But 2013 has proven unlucky for one seemingly invincible Ulster sports team.
Masters of the flight, Co Antrim darts side the Drifters, suffered their first defeat since 1995 in their maiden match this year.
Their remarkable marathon of success was brought to a crashing halt by Ballymena rivals Fairhill Bar – to the amazement of the Drifters players and their conquerors alike.
The huge unbeaten run of the Drifters puts the achievements of Arsenal's 'invincibles' in the Premier League of 2003-2004, when they went one season without defeat, firmly in the shade.
What had appeared to be a fairly routine Harryville and District League fixture for the Drifters was turned on its head in the Fairhill Bar.
Coasting ahead by three matches to nil, the perennial champions seemed to be firmly on track for yet another victory.
Undeterred, the Fairhill Bar players battled back to secure a famous victory in a match peppered with 180s and big finishes.
Harryville and District League secretary Davy Wilson admitted he was as shocked as everyone else to see the Drifters, who are based at the Coach Bar in Ballymena, defeated after all these years.
"The Drifters are a great team. They have a squad of 12 players, all of them among the top players in the country," he said. "The result was some shock but Fairhill hit their doubles and that gave them the edge in a tight match.
"Drifters have had a few draws over the past 18 years but no defeats. In fact they win most of their matches 8-0, 7-1 or 6-2.
"There are top players on the other teams in the league but they tend to be spread among the teams."
Northern Ireland international Geoff Wylie is a founder member of, and one of the leading players in, the Drifters team.
Wylie, who got his side off to a winning start on the night, said: "We missed too many doubles and that's what this game is all about. Four or five of our squad have been there right from the start of the undefeated run of 18 years is certainly a very long time."
George Barr was Fairhill's man of the match, hitting a 15-dart leg.
Team-mate Ryan Gault, who admitted the Fairhill camp was as surprised as neutrals by the win, said: "Beating Drifters is not something you expect, they're the team no-one could beat for 18 years.
"They are a very good side and you need a wee bit of luck.
"They are top at the moment and a team that basically never loses is very hard to catch. It's difficult to get the better of them over the course of a season. But I'm hopeful we can mount a really strong title challenge next season."
Normal service was resumed just six days later when the Drifters – so called because they have been based in different venues over the years – played Fairhill in the cup and ran out comfortable winners.