Belfast Telegraph

Daryl Gurney determined to down World Champion in front of Belfast crowd

 

By Adam McKendry

It's only once you see a darts player up close and personal that you gain a full understanding of how skilled they are.

As enthusiastic amateurs from the media lined up to test their ability against Daryl Gurney in an event run by his Four Star Pizza sponsors at the Duke of York bar in the centre of Belfast yesterday, it quickly became clear he is on another level.

The non-professionals start on 401, Gurney on 701. Usually within three or four trips to the oche, the scores have been levelled.

By the time everyone has had a go, the world No.5 from Derry stands with a grin on his face, undefeated.

In terms of preparation for tonight's Premier League match at the SSE Arena, live on SKY TV, against world champion Rob Cross, it's not exactly ideal. But, then again, it's not likely he ever thought it was.

Instead, this was a chance for him to revel in being home, having travelled the length and breadth of the UK recently for the various legs of the Premier League, along with whistlestops in Germany and Holland.

He also got to spend time at home with his partner, Aine, who is expecting the couple's first child, even if that ended up in him not being able to relax.

"I got back on Monday evening," Gurney explained. "I literally had about 24 hours at home and then I had to come down here this morning, I was up and left at 9am this morning.

"I had to go and get a few baby things for the missus, so we were doing baby shopping yesterday."

It's the life he lives now. His 32nd birthday was celebrated last week with his first Premier League win against Mensur Suljovic in Glasgow, and his stops home are brief as he moves on to the next venue.

"I love playing in the Premier League, the travelling is the only downside," he insisted, before laughing: "I wish I had a De Lorean parked out the back so I could end up right outside the venue! But I really enjoy it, I've enjoyed every minute of it from day one to today."

And you would believe him. Gurney has a naturally outgoing personality, cracking jokes as he downs challengers left, right and centre with ease, and even adding flair to one of the many 180s he throws by turning and grinning widely to his opponent.

It's hard to believe he is having a difficult time of it - four draws and two losses to start his Premier League campaign. Not finding the doubles has been hurting him.

Last week it clicked, the arrows found the beds and Gurney got that mark in the win column.

"I had that many draws, I was thinking, 'Right, I'm in front now, let's kill this game off and get it over'," Gurney said. "I had a good game against Simon Whitlock but he had a good game, too. and didn't give up, and then I was in front against Gary Anderson and had two darts to beat him that were on the wire.

"If they were nervous darts, I would've taken it on the chin and said they were badly thrown darts but I wasn't nervous, they were right on the wire.

"But last week, to get the win at this crucial time, to get the monkey off my back is good because the players know now that I can actually win a game instead of missing a couple of darts."

Cross, a good friend of Gurney's having crossed paths many times on the circuit, will be a stern opponent having won his last five matches, and seventh-placed Gurney could do with another win to seal a place in next year's tournament and push him closer to the top four.

However, the Ulsterman always performs better at home and, with Sweet Caroline blaring out of the speakers as he walks out to the oche, Gurney knows the crowd will be on his side.

"The way I see it, he's world champion, he's up there trying to do it every week while I go up there and I'm happy to be playing in the Premier League, happy to be playing in front of the crowds and all I want to do is play darts really," he said.

"He'll go up there and maybe be under pressure for the first few legs, depending on what the crowd is doing. I hope I can get a win or a draw, if I can get anything I'll be happy."

Suljovic takes on Gary Anderson in the opening game, before Michael Smith and Gerwyn Price lock horns. Then it's the all-Dutch clash between Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld before Gurney tackles Cross. Simon Whitlock's battle against Peter Wright rounds off the night.

Belfast Telegraph

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