Belfast Telegraph

From aisle to oche in week of bliss for newly wed Brendan

By Laure James

Brendan Dolan is keen to point out: "Listen, I'm not a cheapskate, I swear. In fact, it's nice to wear something which isn't a darts shirt." Dolan's wedding, a lavish and beautifully traditional affair in Cavan, would certainly not suggest he's a cheapskate.

Quite the contrary - he splashed out. His and Teresa Doherty's nuptials on Wednesday were a stark departure from more familiar territories, which can vary from dingy, smoke-stained pubs for exhibitions to Victorian theatres for the Professional Darts Corporation's headline events.

The matter of a honeymoon, or rather, conspicuous absence of one, is somewhat a sour point.

Dolan is preparing to return to the stage on which he made his name, both in terms of recognition and every darts player's essential facet, his nickname.

Known as 'The History Maker', since he became the first player to hit a nine-darter in the World Grand Prix in 2011, Dolan's focus is now on the Citywest stage, just outside Dublin, and the tournament he has the greatest fondness for, which begins tomorrow.

Nevertheless, sporting romance is rarely a match for the real thing. "Ditching a honeymoon to go and play in a tournament is what a cheapskate would do," he concedes. "But I swear that isn't me, honestly. We just have to accept the honeymoon can't happen yet.

"Thankfully Teresa is very understanding, she knows better than most what it can be like for us, how busy the calendar can become, and she's busy too. She's training to become a masseuse in college, but still planned our entire wedding and got everything sorted. I only had to show up, I was drafted in at the last minute really, as I had been at a tournament in Barnsley.

"So we're shelving it for now and when we have more time to ourselves, we'll do it properly.

"Then I will get the credit card out!"

Ranked 22 in the PDC's Order of Merit, Dolan - who plays Peter Wright in round one - has picked up £177,000 from competitions in the past two years which, although it is just 10 per cent of what World No.1 Michael van Gerwen has amassed, is a reflection of the commitment and resilience professional darts players must possess.

The Belcoo man first handled tungsten aged just five, dropping darts into a board on the floor, and spent a further five years taking aim in the garage before he was permitted to have a go inside the house.

By the age of 13, he had begun to participate in local competitions, chaperoned by his elder brother John Joe, despite his parents' unease at how much time the young teenager was spending in their local pub.

"Mum and dad were not so keen on me spending evenings in the pub, but they didn't mind when I went along on a Saturday afternoon quite so much," he says.

"I remember watching players on TV during the '80s and thinking, 'I could definitely have a go at that' but having no idea how to pursue it."

The unpredictable, fiercely-competitive world of professional darts is a dark one, and leaves those outside of the top 10 regularly on knife-edges.

Sponsorship is hard to come by and without regular tournament participation and exhibitions to keep money-spinners happy, aspiring throwers can forget about TV appearances.

Dolan admits he was close to quitting, before his nine-dart leg against James Wade five years ago changed his life forever.

"The Grand Prix means a lot to me, it's kept me in the dart game after I nearly threw in the towel, and it's given me recognition," says Dolan.

"I can walk around Belcoo and people will recognise me, and I've been in plenty of competitions on television since, too.

"But the most amazing thing about it was to have done it on home soil. I am lucky to have fans from both Northern Ireland and the Republic, and regardless of where I am playing in Ireland, I always get such a nice welcome. There are no boundaries, really.

"I support any darts players from north or south, unless I am playing in the World Cup of Darts and representing Northern Ireland.

"I often think that nine-darter could have come at any time and anywhere, and players regularly hit them on floor tournaments. They're only special on TV because they're quite rare, the nerves get to you when you're staring at double 12, if you've gone that route, because the crowds are always screaming for you to hit it.

"It came when I had a Dublin crowd fully behind me. That was amazing. I could go and play a tournament in England, against an Englishman, and he would have thousands backing him, and I would maybe have 50 or a hundred folk cheering me.

"In Dublin it's the other way around."

Northern Ireland's other main export and Dolan's World Cup of Darts partner, Daryl Gurney, has firmly established himself on the circuit.

"We did very well this year and got to the semi-finals of the World Cup. I started it well but got poorer as it went on and Daryl started averagely and got stronger as he got on, so it worked well for us," he recalls.

"He was in form and managed to get the anxiety and nerves out of the way, to end up playing tremendously well. He did a lot of carrying by the end! We said whatever happens we do it together, win or lose and that's it.

"Daryl is his own biggest critic, like myself, and I've known him since he was 14. I used to watch him in youth tournaments and the NI Open, and we ended up becoming good friends.

"He will also enjoy the Grand Prix, we were chatting about it recently. He has a lot of support, would go out to 'Sweet Caroline' and because there's such a good atmosphere between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland fans, after the Euros, he's bound to have even more boys from the south backing him as well.

"The buzz at the Citywest is unique for anybody from Ireland, it's the longest and biggest competition there. The Premier League dates in Dublin and Belfast are great too, but tournament competitions are fun.

"Irish supporters are very vocal, and make unbelievable noise. I've never really worried about nerves, but I would hate not to give them something to cheer about. You want to get out there and throw a few 180s.

"They make you want to throw better and to hold your head high in one of the mentally toughest sports there is."

Belfast Telegraph


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