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Northern Ireland's Daryl Gurney has first leg of double in his own hands

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World contender: Daryl Gurney goes for world title glory before supporting Northern Ireland
World contender: Daryl Gurney goes for world title glory before supporting Northern Ireland

By Frank Brownlow

Daryl Gurney has revealed his Christmas wish - to become Ireland's first World darts champion before watching Northern Ireland qualify for the 2020 Euro Finals.

The £2.5m World Championships starts at Alexandra Palace in London on Friday with Gurney among the front runners for the coveted title.

The final - with £500,000 for the winner - is down for decision on New Year's Day, making the winner sport's first world champion of the year.

Gurney must wait until March to discover Northern Ireland's Euro fate, with a play-off semi-final away to Bosnia before a potential final at home to either the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia.

Gurney, whose walk-on music is the Windsor Park anthem Sweet Caroline, said: "That would be the ultimate - winning the World title following by Northern Ireland making it through.

"It would be brilliant to bring the World title home to Northern Ireland and I know I have the ability to do it. I am playing really well at the minute and I know I have the ability to beat anyone.

"The World Championship is the hardest tournament to win because it lasts for over two weeks so you have to be at the top of your game for a long period.

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Brendan Dolan
Brendan Dolan

"You need confidence, grit and determination.

"I am feeling really good and practising really well."

The World number six combines his high-flying darts career with being very much a hands-on dad to 20-month old son Daryl junior.

"I spend as much time with wee Daryl as I possibly can. I try to practise while he is asleep, so I nip over to my parents' house to practice so the thud of the darts doesn't wake him," said the Londonderry arrow artist.

"I mainly practice at night so it all ties in well with wee Daryl's routine."

Gurney's high ranking earns him a bye into the second round in which he will play the experienced Justin Pipe, or unknown quantity Benjamin Pratnemer on Saturday week.

"It will be tough no matter who it is. I know Justin Pipe well and he is a very good player," said the 33-year-old, who gave up work as a joiner two years ago to chase his darting dream.

"The last couple of years have been great," he said.

"I really feel this is the golden era of darts. The sport is on the up and up.

"Premier League football is the only sport that gets bigger viewing figures. We have overtaken the likes of golf and snooker.

"The standard in darts just keeps getting better and better and it will improve further. You have to work really hard to keep up but I am loving every minute of it.

"I spend as much time at home as possible. If you tried to play in every tournament it would wear you out and the travelling can be tough but I love darts as much now as I did when I was just starting out.

"Premier League darts has been great for the sport and hopefully I will get in next time round, especially as you get to play at the SSE Arena in front of your own fans. That's a very special night for me."

The man known as Super Chin will be joined at Ally Pally by Fermanagh's Brendan Dolan and Tyrone's Mickey Mansell.

Both start in round one with the experienced Dolan taking on Nitin Kumar on Sunday afternoon, while Mansell is in action against Seigo Asada on Wednesday afternoon.

If Dolan makes it through he faces a massive second round clash with two-time champion Gary Anderson. Keegan Brown lies in wait for Mansell.

Defending champion Michael van Gerwen is the big name in action tomorrow night when he will be up against the winner of the earlier showdown between fellow Dutchman Jelle Klaasen and Kevin Burness.

Van Gerwen is the hot favourite to be crowned World champion for a fourth time on January 1 - but don't bet against Gurney ruining Mighty Mike's New Year celebrations

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