Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Darts: Powering up for another Barney

As Hannibal Smith used to say on the A-Team - 'I just love it when a plan comes together!'.

The collective snorts of the bigwigs in the Professional Darts Corporation will drown out the clatter of stiletto on Essex streets as Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld lock horns tonight.

Barney jumped ship from the BDO earlier in the year, setting sail for the oche paved with gold that is the Circus Tavern.

The Ladbrokes.com World Championship final that everyone wanted, well, apart from Chris Mason perhaps, is on tonight and while it may not be everyone's cup of tea it will be the highlight of the sporting year.

Well, for one day at least.

To the uninitiated, whose ranks I belonged until Wednesday and Thursday of this week when I made the pilgrimage, Purfleet is a bit like Larne, but without the charm.

This is no simple matter of two portly blokes chucking wee pointy things at a board. There's pints and pies to bear in mind too, but the small matter of £100,000 is not to be scoffed at.

Taylor, the man known as The Power, made a similar jump as the former Dutch postman several years ago and has, albeit with the very occasional blip, pummelled allcomers into submission.

His 7-0 whitewash of Peter Manley last year, for his 13th world crown, was so convincing his opponent would have been better served hurling a hedgehog at the board.

I got the chance to watch both men in imperious form during my brief spell at the Tavern. Barneveld's clinical dismantling of young Orange pretender Riko Vonk akin to Mr Bean trying to trade blows with Lennox Lewis and showed he was here for business.

Taylor's spat with Mason, funny as it was, over-shadowed a similarly professional display, while the semi-finals were two non-events.

A win for either of the Andys', Robinson and Jenkins, would have been a shock of seismic proportions. As it was, they hardly drowned out the clinking of the pint pots.

Sitting in the crowd is not for the faint of heart. The majority of fans behave like over-excited versions of Mike Reid and by the end of the two days you have been overtaken by an overwhelming urge to listen to Chas and Dave.

You go with all good intentions of watching with due reverence but two legs in and you're off your seat and waving your arms about like a wailing banshee.

The bouncers are your brothers, the brothers in question being a cross between the Krays and the Mitchells, but they are very fair - they seem to hate everyone equally!

But despite gallons of guzzling being done there was never a sniff of trouble, apart from on the stage.

The players may not be the finest specimens of manhood ever to have ambled across the earth but those who laugh at the sweat cascading off their nose should be there.

It is a cauldron. You half expect the devil to pop his head round the door asking if they could keep the noise down a little and tonight will be hotter than the sun.

For Barneveld it is his chance to make his mark. The pair clashed in a 'champion of champions' encounter previously but this will be their first head to head at Purfleet.

"I've followed Phil for years, and after losing the Lakeside final to Jelle Klaasen in January I decided to set myself a new target," said Barneveld.

"I wanted this man. I gave up everything I had with the BDO to get to this final and to beat this man. It was my biggest dream.

"A lot of people in Holland were telling me I had won Lakeside (the BDO world title) four times and that I was the best player in the world.

"But there was a voice in my head saying 'no, you're not, there's one better than you'.

"Now I hope I can beat him in front of everyone. The final was my biggest target - beating Phil is something else. You have to play world-class darts to beat this man."

I'm sure the Power's up for another Barney, but this time it will be all in sport.

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