Belfast Telegraph

Dolan's fired up to make an impression

By Frank Brownlow

Brendan Dolan wants Sir Alan Sugar's job - and in the darts world that can only mean becoming world champion.

'Apprentice' Dolan is up to number 11 in the world but the Fermanagh arrow ace is determined to be top of the tree after Christmas.

"I've been the apprentice for a few years now - but it will be my day soon," said Dolan, who begins his quest for the biggest prize in darts on Monday night, after watching tomorrow evening's final of The Apprentice.

"I know I am good enough to beat the best players in the world - I have beaten them all in the tournaments on tour," he said.

"Anyone in the world's top 16 can be crowned world champion in a fortnight's time. Those players are in the top 16 for a reason - they have shown top quality over a period of time.

"I have risen up the rankings over the last few years.

"I have won five tournaments so far, beating the likes of Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen, Raymond van Barneveld and Gary Anderson - and those same players have beaten me as well.

"But beating those players certainly boosts your confidence."

Dolan will not know who he plays until two hours before he is due on stage at Alexandra Palace on Monday night, taking on the winner of the preliminary round tie between Nolan Arendse and Alex Hon.

"I will have a look at the match, cast my eye over it.

"But it won't make a whole lot of difference who I play, it's more about my attitude and how well I play.

"I have had a really good year - up to number 11 in the world, the highest I have ever been.

"It's been a busy schedule. You might get home from a tournament on a Monday and have to head off again on a Wednesday or Thursday for the next event," said the Belcoo thrower.

"It's a lot handier for the players based in England as that's where most of the tournaments are, although an increasing number are on the continent.

"But I wouldn't base myself across the water, I enjoy living here and the travelling is manageable although obviously flights and accommodation are expensive.

"There's also the issue of fatigue with so much travelling.

"Maybe all that's why we've never had an Irish world champion - it would be great to be the first. In the past, Irish players have been part-time - there just wasn't enough money in the game to give up your day job and earn a living - but I've been full-time since 2011 and it's great to be able to focus on the game.

"There's more money in the game now than ever before," said Dolan ahead of beginning his title bid in the £1.25m tournament.

The 41-year-old will fly home on Tuesday and, if he has won his opening match, will return to London next Saturday.

"There's no way I would miss Christmas at home," he explained.

"If the weather forecast is correct, we may not see any snow over Christmas so I'm hopeful there will be no problems with the travelling back and forward."

And Dolan will be joined on his adventures by two other Ulster darting stars.

Mickey Mansell and Daryl Gurney are both knocking on the door of big-time darts, both aiming to seize their big chance.

Gurney, from Londonderry, is the first Ulsterman on the oche, taking on Scott Mackenzie in the preliminary round this afternoon with the winner facing Ronnie Baxter later today.

Dolan said: "These are the two best players in the preliminary round so they are a bit unfortunate to be facing each other.

"Daryl is a talented, aggressive player who could do very well against Ronnie Baxter if he can get through."

Tyrone ace Mansell has a high enough ranking to start his campaign in the first round proper, taking on world number 18 Kim Huybrechts tomorrow night.

Dolan said: "That is a very tough game for Mickey.

"But Mickey beat Kim recently and certainly won't be afraid of him.

"Mickey will have to be at his best but it's a great opportunity for him.

"Mickey has worked hard all year to get to the World Championship and I am delighted that he has made it.

"He deserves to be here and I'd love to see him go on a bit of a run," he added.

Dolan doesn't see Michael van Gerwen retaining his title, despite already easing through to the second round - and has a dark horse selection.

"James Wade has really upped his game over the last few months and could make a big impact. He's not a player anybody is really talking about in terms of winning the title," said Dolan.

"Gary Anderson is on a good run of form and will be hard to beat.

"It is going to be difficult for Michael van Gerwen to win back-to-back world titles," he added.

Big-time darts comes to the Odyssey Arena every February in the form of the Premier League, with Dublin now also hosting a round of the event.

And Dolan knows a good World Championship might just propel him into the big-money showpiece, a mainstay of Sky's winter schedule.

"It would be great to play in the Premier League, particularly with the two Irish dates.

"Realistically I will probably have to win the world title to get in," said Dolan, who made it all the way to the final of the World Grand Prix in Dublin in 2011, the only tournament where players must start on a double.

In that event, Dolan became the first ever player to hit a 'double start' nine darter.

He became known as 'History Maker' after that feat.

And becoming world champion would be the most historic feat of all.

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