Belfast Telegraph

£100,000 Daryl is first-ever Irishman to claim major win

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland's Daryl Gurney has labelled his dramatic World Grand Prix title success as a 'dream come true' insisting that his never-say-die attitude secured the historic victory.

In defeating Australian Simon Whitlock 5-4 in Dublin on Saturday night, Londonderry thrower Gurney became the first Irishman to win one of the major PDC darts tournaments and £100,000 prize money for good measure.

It was a classic contest at the CityWest Hotel filled with emotion and controversy as Gurney's incredible rise up the ranks continued.

Gurney enters every event thinking about his dear friend Aaron McMenamin who sadly passed away earlier this year from Cystic Fibrosis.

He wears a necklace with a picture of Aaron's face on it and raises money and awareness for charities connected with the condition.

Before Aaron died, Daryl had told him he would win a big competition for his best mate. Holding the trophy after his thrilling victory, an emotional Gurney said: "I'm going to take it up and he can see it."

The 31-year-old has had a remarkable 2017, reaching the semi-finals of the UK Open and World Matchplay, the final of the US Masters and he won his first Pro tour title.

Triumphing in the World Grand Prix event, where players start and finish with a double, has moved him to number six in the world. Only Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Peter Wright, Adrian Lewis and Phil Taylor are ahead of the man known as 'Superchin'.

In Saturday's final Whitlock was 2-0 up and 4-3 ahead but lost form in the latter stages with Gurney holding his nerve superbly to take advantage to record a famous 5-4 victory.

"I had the fighting spirit and was never going to give up," said Gurney, whose walk on music is Sweet Caroline.

"Simon threw brilliantly at stages but I fought with him tooth and nail throughout the final. Dreams do come true and this is a dream.

"It feels better than anything else I've ever felt in my life."

It wasn't all plain sailing for Gurney. After levelling the match at two sets apiece, he received a warning for his conduct by the tournament director after appearing to move towards his opponent before changing direction to avoid a collision.

Sky Sports commentator Wayne Mardle said: "It was a little nasty and uncalled for. I didn't like it all."

Some fans were fuming with Gurney and jeered him as he prepared to throw for crucial doubles later in the match.

Gurney explained: "Maybe somebody thought I barged into him but I went round him.

"I'm not one of these players who needs to do anything like that.

"If it looked like that on TV, it's possibly because it was head-on but I made sure that I walked around him.

"I'm not a player that needs to play game tactics. I like to beat a player straight up."

On the booing, which led to Gurney delaying his shots, he said: "The only reason I took my time on the doubles was because the crowd was on Simon's side.

"Whenever I was going for doubles, the crowd was going mad; they were booing, they really didn't want me to hit the double.

"I thought Simon was the favourite, crowd-wise. The only time I really took my time was when the crowd was on my back."

Gurney, who started playing darts at the age of 12, will now have the World Championships in his sights. It's a far cry from when he gave up the game several years ago.

He recalled: "I packed it in for a few months.

"I was losing to players I shouldn't have been losing to in local competitions. I fell out of love with the game.

"I did something stupid taking out a car on finance and I said to myself 'how am I going to pay for this car?' and that's what got me determined again to get practicing and stop sitting in my bed watching television, then the confidence started coming back.

"I started winning competitions and then in time the darts paid for the car!"

With a growing reputation and £100,000 in the bank, Gurney could pay for a few cars outright now.

The night also saw William O'Connor win the 2017 Tom Kirby Memorial Irish Matchplay final with a 6-4 defeat of Jason Cullen, as the Limerick thrower secured his debut in the William Hill World Darts Championship by scooping Ireland's top domestic honour.

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