Belfast Telegraph

Darts star Daryl Gurney sacrifices Christmas with family to bring world title to Northern Ireland

By Laure James

Northern Ireland darts star Daryl Gurney is preparing for the biggest match of his life - by searching for a bed on Christmas night.

The Londonderry thrower is sacrificing a Christmas at home with his family in order to prepare for a clash with world champion Gary Anderson on Boxing Day.

And Gurney hopes that a good run at the World Championships at Alexandra Palace in London will allow him to save enough money to go and see his heroes, the Northern Ireland football team, play in Euro 2016.

Gurney (28) said: "I am really not gutted that I am missing Christmas with the family. I have three sisters, I don't need to say any more!

"If I can miss every Christmas because I am here throwing darts, give me a bit of paper to sign now."

'The Dude', as he is known, now walks out to Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline in tribute to Michael O'Neill's troops, and used to wear the Irish FA badge on his darts shirt.

"A good run here and yes, I'd love to put it towards a trip to France to see Northern Ireland.

"I've tried on a few occasions but international breaks usually clash with big darts tournaments.

"They've qualified for the first major tournament since 1986, before I was born, and they may never do so again, so of course I want to be there."

He has already pocketed a guaranteed £15,000, and a place in the third round of the World Championship will boost that to £22,000.

While Gurney will have to hold his nerve, show mental resilience and get the crowd on his side, solid preparation is vital to progress in front of the Sky Sports Darts cameras.

"The plan is to practice as much as possible," he said. "I will travel back to England on Christmas Eve, so that's why I won't have Christmas back home.

"I will probably have a nice word with my manager [Matt Ward], to see if he has a spare room or a spare bed. I would rather be around company than have four walls to stare at alone."

In truth, his father and sister, Hayley, in particular, are concrete support for the young player, attending countless floor tournaments and events falling under the comprehensive Professional Darts Corporation banner.

"It becomes intense, and very demanding, so we don't get to go to everything," Hayley, who is still trying to secure flights to London for the second round, said. "My dad and I try to get to as much as we can and it's been amazing to see him do so well."

Gurney, as with other emerging young talents, such as 2014 Youth World Champion, Keegan Brown, is now deliberating over whether a move to full-time professional darts is beckoning.

A plumber by trade, Gurney also attempts to squeeze every minute's worth of practice he can into each day, but admits he's had to prioritise.

"I had other things in my life which came before darts, and that's why I didn't kick on for a while.

"Darts - playing and practising - just wasn't that important. I thought I would be good enough, but then I sat back and thought, 'it's time to wake up'.

"I needed more time, more practice and more dedication.

"I only got an hour in after work, but now I am getting three or four in. You have to force yourself to. Working as a plumber means I am lifting heavy objects and doing physical work, and that can tire you out, or make your arm feel too heavy to throw properly.

"You can't beat the World Championships. You can play in every competition, local league, tournament, whatever. But the Worlds mean something special to everyone, including me.

"If you want to play at the highest level, you have to be here."

  • Laure James, from Belfast, is the face of Sky Sports' world darts coverage

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