Two ballads by well known Irish performers are reverberating in my head. One very well known, the other possibly not as much so as could be the case. The first being One Day At A Time by Gloria and the other being Christy Moore’s version of Viva Le Quinta Brigada – relating to Irish involvement in what I think was the World War. But one is open to and would welcome correction on same.
To be honest, it was more the ‘air’ to Christy’s song rather than the actual lyrics. Simply as the thought was, while watching the Players Championship Finals in the Darts last week, that Even a genius is human. For there have been a few occasions in recent times when Michael Van Gerwen appeared to lost his air of invincibility.
Mention was afforded here in a post a short time back that there was once a list of ‘red line’ sports that this corner wouldn’t watch. Darts would have been very much to the fore in any such amalgam. I can only assume that it was the influence of my late, much loved and desperately missed uncle Joe Geoghegan that converted me to a devotee of affairs on the oche. His own interest therein fostered by a combination of working in England for years and the fact that there were both darts and rings boards in ma’s family home at Sion Farm in Leixlip.
When I did become properly attuned to the flying arrows, both Phil Taylor and Raymond Van Berneveld were both in the twilight zones of their stellar careers. However, he who would become known as the ‘Dutch Darting Joggernaut’ (Van Gerwen) was just going up through the gears.
For a time, it really did appear as if he was untouchable. Even after Gary Anderson garnered consecutive world championships, Van Gerwen bounced back to capture another couple of top gongs himself. Nothing to see here then?
Well, not quite that. Firstly there was Rob Cross coming from basically nowhere to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy. That is not to say, for a second, that MVG is a spent force or anything of the sort. Lord knows how many titles he has hoovered up in the last couple of years.
Yet there have been signs that even a genius is only human. Most notably, his consecutive defeats by the forever admirable Australian Simon Whitlock. From a spectator perspective, you know you’re properly hooked on a sport when you know players outside of the top bracket and, as well as that, find yourself making a list of all the televised tournaments during the year.
Not to mention having a fair grasp of the formats of all the different events. To that end, the Premier League is a double-edged sword. Yes, having it to view every week for three months or more. But the short format of the matches can actually be frustrating as they are only getting going when they’re over.
For that reason, tournaments such as the Grand Prix and Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals over the elongated course are always looked forward to. Also, strange as it may seem, it would appear the older players actually seem to fair out better over the longer trips than the rapid fire fare. Something best demonstrated by the gifted, gutsy battle-hardened veteran Mervyn King not only making it all the way to the final but therein pushing the world’s top performer all the way before he scraped home 11-10.
This almost feels like sacrilege given the standard of play exhibited in Coventry last week, but, the three days action at the Ricoh Arena serve as the most fitting curtain raiser for the big one at the Alexandra Palace in a couple of weeks time. If, however, more than yours truly use it as a measurement of what to expect during the sporting highlight of the Christmas period, it could make for a very delectable dish.
Without dwelling on the fact, that Van Gerwen has returned to form at this time of year is surely ominous for others in the field. However, it’s by no means a one horse race. With some notable others both hitting and holding their form in a very timely fashion. For this observer at least, in the former category Jose De Sousa and the aforementioned King top the lot while into the latter bracket can be slotted Whitlock, Price, Rob Cross and Michael Smith.
Now, we all have our favourites in a given sport. And, while it would be very easy to leap aboard the bandwagon, take the simple option and plump for the dynamic Dutchman. Then again, for this corner, very few things in life have been simple. No harm in that either sometimes. Sure if life was simple it’d be boring.
Of course, it wouldn’t be me with a major sporting event if I didn’t go looking for a bit of value for a punt. With that in mind, there are a couple of former kings of the Palace almost insultingly chalked up so much are they overpriced. Gary Anderson (pictured, 28/1) and Rob Cross at what looks a very generous 50/1.
The Scot has been in fine form of late despite playing quite obviously through the pain barrier. Put in place by ongoing back complaints. Meanwhile Cross, who stunned the sporting world by storming the Palace at his first attempt, fell so badly out of form that his results were just too bad to be true. As has been proven lately, there seems to be a spark there again.
Those two will do against the field for me.