Our Daryl is giving his all in a quest for World glory
Daryl Gurney has backed himself as an outsider to win the PDC World Darts Championship, but knows he will have to make sacrifices. The Londonderry dartist takes on former BDO World champion Mark Webster in his first ever last 16 clash in the blue riband tournament this afternoon - and has already spent Christmas on the practice board.
"We didn't have much of a break this year," said Gurney, whose compatriot Brendan Dolan exited in the second round yesterday after a 4-0 loss to Jelle Klaasen.
"I could sum it up with practice, turkey, practice, practice.
"It's all about sacrifices to get to this point. Everybody watches darts on TV and thinks it's a great laugh, but it's a really long journey to get there. We play in dozens of events to qualify for the Worlds.
"My manager and my dad Tom are both here, and my girlfriend Aine will be out for the last 16 game. Aine's not been able to get the same amount of time off work as I'd have hoped, so she's coming out for the first time since I got here in the middle of December. Whether I win or lose, she'll also be going home on Friday."
Being a professional darts player can be a surprisingly solitary existence, with strenuous timetables and plenty of hours in airports.
Gurney recovered from a broken hand to play in the Grand Prix of Darts in Dublin in October, and has been enslaved to the practice board ever since.
While he accepts preparation and keeping on top of a strict practice routine is everything, he also knows it all comes down to your 15 minutes on the oche.
"Preparation is crucial. If you play well in the practice room and take that to the stage you can naturally haul yourself out of a hole. You can only learn that for yourself, from your own experiences," he said. "You learn what your vices are, such as thinking too much, or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.
"Mark will keep me on my toes. I've probably had a better year than him. He's been on a bit of a decline but there's not much between us. I am 24th in the Order of Merit and he's 25th. He'll want to prove he can still progress, but if I can keep my finishing up and get my scoring nice and high, he'll have another thing coming. My practice never changes, I always try and do the same as I always do, the fives and the ones, and my finishing."
He was dumped out of last year's World Championship in the second round by two-time winner and current holder Gary Anderson, but his 4-3 comeback triumph on Tuesday edged him past Robert Thornton, marking his personal best in the competition.
"Robert was sleeping for the first two sets and I went 2-0 up," the Waterside man said. "I wasn't surprised to see him bite back, he has a wealth of experience on the main stages, and didn't look as if he was allowing anything to get to him.
"Still, he was slow to get going and I don't think I'll be allowed that kind of grace from Mark. It'll go to the wire, another 4-3 as it's best of seven sets again. It's going to be really tough."
James Wade saw off Steve Beaton 4-1 as he booked his place in the last 16 while Kim Huybrechts breezed past Max Hopp in straight sets.
In the evening session, Peter Wright showed his class to see off Jamie Lewis 4-0 in the last of the second round ties.
Champion Gary Anderson kicked off the last 16 clashes by beating Benito van de Pas 4-2 and Raymond van Barneveld triumphed 4-3 over Adrian Lewis.