This corner wasn’t old enough to properly take in the particulars of when last Liverpool had a perch all of their own. Aside, that is, from the likes of Steve Staunton, Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan and John Aldridge being involved.
Likewise when Kerry and Dublin appeared to have the Gaelic football almost exclusively to themselves. In both cases, the deeds of the great teams concerned were observed years later on video. Of course, most recently, all concerned have held similar, seemingly unassailable positions in their own codes.
Spells of dominance are nothing new in any sport. It’s doubtful, though, were there many as elongated as those of Stephen Hendry in Snooker or the Juventus side with Cristiano Ronaldo in tow which were recently crowned champions of Italian football for the ninth successive season. Possibly the most prominent glorious period of comparable longevity was that wielded by Phil Taylor of over his fellow competitors in darts.
The tempestuous Stoke native won the World Championship in his area of expertise an incredible 16 times, as well as every other title the sport had on offer on multiple occasions. However, even time nor tide didn’t wait for ‘The Power’. Thus, just as he had succeeded Dennis Priestley and Ronnie Baxter and ‘Jocky’ Wilson and Eric Bristow, so Adrian Lewis and – most significantly – Michael Van Gerwen assumed the mantle from Taylor.
Even somebody as majestically talented as MVG isn’t impervious to usurpation. And, while even intimating such a thing might seem absurd as the Dutch darting green machine is a three time World Champion and current World Number One, aficionados will realise that the air of what bordered on invincability has been slipping for quite a while now.
Even allowing for that though, surely nobody bar Mystic Meg could’ve foreseen what wasn’t so much a defeat by Simon Whitlock as a dismantling at the World Matchplay Championship recently. Don’t get me wrong, the veteran, uniquely pony-tailed Australian has always been a top class if largely luckless player, but, for a period last week in Milton Keynes, he performed like a man possessed.
Naturally, but completely unfairly, the vast majority of commentary and reaction centred on the under-performance of the best tungsten thrower on the planet. Rather than bestowing the merited acclaim upon the man whose darting acronym, The Wizard, was hardly ever more apt than on the occasion in question as he conjured darts of such unbridled majesty that it left a viewer pondering how the man from the other end of the world hasn’t tasted more success during his commendably lenghty career.
Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to sustain the level of output in his following encounter against Gary Anderson. Mind you, Whitlock was far from the only one to show at least tentative signs of a return to something like the form of which he is undoubtedly capable. Lewis, Anderson and even to a certain extent current kingpin Peter Wright all belong in the aforementioned bracket.
Throughout the week long event, it was very much an entertaining mix of the old and the kinda new. Reason being that what at times was the utter brilliance of some of the old hands was matched if not bettered by some of those who have been on the go for quite a while in some cases yet not for whatever reason attained the profile of some of their fellow competitors.
In terms of the most recent action, that shifts the focus to the likes of Glen Durrant and Joe Cullen and, most pointedly in the pertinent case, Dimitri Van den Bergh, demonstrated amply why neither Wright or Van Gerwen can afford to take their eye off the oche for a second. Having said that, once Wright defenestrated his glasses there were at least signs that the accomplished arrowsmith who got his crowning glory at the Ally Pally last January is in there somewhere.
For his part, Van den Bergh – whose pre-match routine alone makes him a must watch – had a decorated career coming up through the ranks but, while always seeming to have possessed the talent to make a big breakthrough at the highest level there was no sign of it occurring. Until most recently, that is.
When the maiden Major did come, mind you, it was achieved in the manner one dreams of such matters transpiring. By performing to one’s optimum, obviously, but also having conquered those who would be recognised as the ones to overcome if wanting to be acclaimed as a worthy and deserving champion.
To that end, the burgeoning Belgian certainly ticked the above boxes, with his disposals of Nathan Aspinall, Joe Cullen, Adrian Lewis and Glen Durrant before defeating what had looked to be a rejuvenated Gary Anderson in the Final by 18 legs to 10. Included in his repertoire for achieving same was at least one maximum checkout of 170 along with several other three figure conclusions to other legs.
Throughout the competition, the man also known as ‘The Dreammaker’ established a pattern for amassing big leads. Which, try valiantly as they might, neither Lewis or Anderson were able to overhaul. Of course, the challenge now is for the newly crowned kingpin of this magnificent event to build on the success. Something which, commensurate witb the natural talent with which they were blessed, the likes of Lewis and Rob Cross have failed to do.
Inclination is, though, that Van Den Bergh will have less trouble building on the success than some of the others mentioned have had. Just how much of that viewpoint can be ascribed to the player’s seemingly endless positivity cannot exactly be calculated. At least, now, however, he has the gong to back up what a cynic might call showboating. Though, for yours truly at least, it’s just part of his persona the same as Peter Wright’s ‘warm-up’ routine is of his.
Speaking of the colourful Scot, seldom if ever will a defending title holder of the big one have had as many genuine contenders eyeing up their crown as will be the case at the end of the year. Don’t be shocked, mind you, if the most Mighty challenge to Snakebite’s supremacy came from a very familiar Green Machine.
The above synopsis may seem to give lie to everything which has gone before it. However, gut instinct is to think that, when the bovine excriment collides with the air conditioning, the resience of the Sid Waddel trophy will still revolve around MVG.
Akin to the Dublin football team or the All Blacks in rugby or Ronnie O’Sullivan at the snooker table, serial winners tend to be thus gifted at knowing how and when to do the right thing.
Mention of the snooker is seminal at this point. In this crazy, chaotic year its mere presence – though much later in the year than would normally be the case – is at least feighning the availability of some normality in the world. Ditto the presence of top level soccer and horse raci g and GAA back on our television screens.
Right, so it is undoubtedly better to have all of the above than the fallow, emptiness which engulfed the occupant of this seat when it appeared the entire world had stopped turning. Needlessly in some cases.
However, there were certainly other events which could’ve been salvaged by behind closes doors staging similar to some of those outlined above. None more so than the GAA championship, where decisions were, one suspects, as per usual, made according to factors which shouldn’t take priority but very often do.
Thus, seeing how hunches hanging around about tbe darts pan out and the delayed snooker and the abundance of club action available for viewing should be enough to keep the show on the road as long as chaos reigns.
FOGRA: Thanks to all those who made such unique, innovative and appreciated coverage of the opening round of Meath’s football championships possible. Stay tuned for my take on what was a Dunboyne-Dunshaughlin match with a difference for this corner.