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I can bring darts world title to Northern Ireland for the first time, says Daryl Gurney

Londonderry ace insists he has the quality to reign on grandest stage


Bring it on: Daryl Gurney has no fear ahead of launching his bid to become Northern Ireland’s first darts world champion

Bring it on: Daryl Gurney has no fear ahead of launching his bid to become Northern Ireland’s first darts world champion

Getty Images

Michael van Gerwen will be eyeing a fourth crown

Michael van Gerwen will be eyeing a fourth crown

Getty Images


Bring it on: Daryl Gurney has no fear ahead of launching his bid to become Northern Ireland’s first darts world champion

Daryl Gurney is aiming to become Northern Ireland's first Superman of darts - despite the lack of Batmen, Spider-men, Wise Men, Santa's elves and pantomime horses at this week's World Championship at Alexandra Palace.

Fans will return to darts for the first time during the Covid pandemic for the start of the £2.5m World Championship on Tuesday and, while Ally Pally usually hosts 2,500 raucous revellers for the festive festival of arrow artistry, with restrictions in place only 1,000 will be allowed into the famous London venue - though fancy dress is out, as is football-style chanting. Dodgy Christmas jumpers are permitted, though!

The Londonderry thrower is confident the crowd will help him raise his game to get the better of big guns Michael van Gerwen - the world No.1 and three-time winner - defending champion Peter Wright and in-form Gerwyn Price to bring the world title back to Northern Ireland for the first time ever.

Gurney, as the No.11 seed, enters the fray in round two and will be in action on Thursday afternoon against the winner of the first-round clash between Limerick's Willie O'Connor and Dutch ace Niels Zonneveld.

The man known as Superchin said: "I am going there to try and win - I'm certainly not going there to make up the numbers. I would love to bring the title back to Northern Ireland, that would be so special.

"I know I have the game and the experience to do it. All the other top players know what I am capable of. Now it's down to me."

But he admits his opener is a tricky encounter, although he has a winning record against both players.

"They are all tough games at the World Championship. I have known Willie for over 10 years and he is a class act. I know all about Niels as well. They are both quality players," said the 34-year-old.

"I would put Gerwyn Price, Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright a little bit ahead of everybody else but outside those three there's not much between the rest of the players. It's all about producing your 'A' game on the day. Wright won it last year yet he faced a match dart in an early round - that shows the fine margins."

Gurney has been a regular in darts tournaments during the pandemic and has become accustomed to the new normal.

"Staying in the bubble doesn't bother me. We are getting used to the set-up now. You are tested then stay in your room for 24 hours until your result comes back," he said.

"It's great that there is going to be a crowd because darts just isn't the same without the fans. I know there is no fancy dress allowed but to me it's all about the atmosphere the fans generate. I'm sure they will enjoy themselves, even if they don't get to dress up!

"Ally Pally is the best venue for darts in the world. We will soon find out what it's like to have 1,000 people in there but I'm sure it will be fantastic. Ally Pally is an old building with a high ceiling and I think with the echo the 1,000 will probably sound more like 10,000."

Gurney has faced festive travel problems in the past and in 2015 had to spend Christmas Day away from home to ensure he was at the venue for his next match. Thankfully, there are no such issues this time around.

"I will be returning home for Christmas following my opening match and I'll then return for the remainder of the tournament," he said.

"I am practising hard but not playing anywhere near my best at the moment although I am confident having a crowd there will give me a big lift. I've always loved playing in front of a crowd.

"Gerwyn Price is probably the best player in the world right now and I think the World Championship format will suit him with the matches well spaced out.

"MVG hasn't been at his very best recently but the behind-closed-doors tournaments could be a factor in that. He's another who likes a crowd - he's a real entertainer. The fans at Ally Pally could spur him on and it wouldn't surprise me if he won it as his 'A' game is that wee bit better than anyone else's."

Gurney's fellow Ulstermen Brendan Dolan and Mickey Mansell have also earned their spot on darts' biggest stage. Fermanagh arrow ace Dolan, seeded 30, opens his campaign against either Mike de Decker or Edward Foulkes on Tuesday, December 22.

Tyrone thrower Mansell is in first-round action next Friday, facing New Zealand's Haupai Puha, the winner taking on No.32 seed Ricky Evans on Wednesday, December 23.

Gurney added: "Brendan is playing really, really well at the moment, probably better than he ever has. He is playing with confidence and if he can produce his best darts, he can beat anybody.

"Mickey is more than capable of going on a run in the tournament."

He added: "It's all going to be a bit different but it's still the one everyone wants to win."

Even superheroes.

Belfast Telegraph