Daryl Gurney full of confidence ahead of World Darts title quest
Northern Ireland's Daryl Gurney will approach the PDC World Darts Championship - which kicks off tonight - in confident mood as he aims for a second career televised title.
The Londonderry man, who was back in his hometown this week to visit Lisneal College where he sponsors several of their sports teams, will face Ronny Huybrechts in his opening round clash on Monday night.
It should be a straightforward match for Gurney against the Belgian, who has never progressed beyond the last 32 in this event.
However, World No.41 Huybrechts is a consistent performer and, while he rarely produces the kind of form to put him among the sport's elite, he does have the ability to cause an upset if Gurney isn't on top of his game.
But the Ulsterman will arrive at the Alexandra Palace full of self-belief, going into the PDC's flagship event as the fourth seed, matching his world ranking.
Gurney has reached at least the quarter-finals in his last five events and is only two months removed from his maiden televised championship win at the Grand Prix of Darts in October.
While he is being backed as a dark horse to win the event, Gurney needs to be wary of Huybrechts.
The event will also be the last outing for legend Phil 'The Power' Taylor, who will retire after the tournament.
The 16-time world champion opens his account tomorrow night against fellow Englishman Chris Dobey, who is ranked 38th in the world.
It will be a bittersweet moment for Taylor, and the sport, when his sparkling career does come to an end, and there is the hope that he will finish on a high.
World No.1 and reigning champion Michael van Gerwen, who goes into the event as favourite, was effusive in his praise of Taylor.
"He deserves every respect you can give him," said Van Gerwen, who kicks off his bid to retain the crown against Christian Kist tonight. "It is the perfect rivalry. There is respect and I think Phil knows my top level is higher than his, but he has won more than me so I can't say anything.
"I will never get his world titles but it's not just about that. It is more difficult to win tournaments now. The level has been raised.
"I still love to play Phil, he is the most enjoyable man to beat because he's the greatest."