To again wheel out a quote often utilised here previously, Just as quickly as it started, the firing stopped… And with it went the dreams of a village, a county, a country and a supremely talented young man. For now at least.
With it came a stark reminder that very often there’s no place for romance at the top table of professional sport. Just a couple of hours ago in previewing the darting extravaganza that will captivate, entertain and possibly shock those of us hooked on affairs of the oche for the best part of three weeks, hope was expressed that Meathman Keane Barry could, as they say in darting parlance, go fairly deep into the PDC World Championship in Darts.
However, another old dictum picked up from ingesting voluminous amounts of Con Houlihan’s material, Those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad seemed more applicable as the young Duleek lad’s ambitions were ended before they had begun. Not that was overawed or anything of the sort. At times, he displayed all the class and skill which has long earmarked the 18-year-old as one of the real rising stars of the darting world.
Experience, though, trumps talent and potential every time. Especially on the biggest stage a given sport has. Which, as much as Barry battled valiantly, eventually told as the crafty Canadian Jeff Smith eventually wore down the Irishman’s undoubted resolve. And, what would have to be considered an upset in that particular encounter was symbolic of much what transpired during opening evening.
History being created in sporting events is nothing new. Sure isn’t that just evolution. However, a competitor taking part in a sports main event for 30 consecutive years is surely as noteworthy as it is unlikely to be repeated. Fate pays as much attention to happy endings as does experience. Tonight, though, emotional enthusiasm usurped battle hardened mileage as the plucky, talented and infectiously emotional Diogo Portella of Brazil scored a straight sets win over The Bronzed Adonis, Steve Beaton.
Steve West was another wily campaigner ‘togging out’ as the curtain went up on the most wonderful (sporting) time of the year. After an impressive looking win over an Indian qualifier with plenty of game, West stayed with defending champion Peter Wright for long periods of their encounter before a most unusual turning point swung matters in ‘Snakebite’s favour.
Anybody even loosely interested in darts will know of the Scotsman’s outlandish outfits and hairstyles. Besides all that though, he is a tenacious, highly gifted player who last year got the breakthrough his career has long deserved when lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy for the first time.
Now, it’s probably the case that his English opponent on Tuesday night was far from the first and highly unlikely to be the last to be knocked out of their comfort zone. To the extent that the eventually defeated man ended up going to the wrong water table at one point.
Wright gave an unusually open, moving interview prior to the commencement of the action, during which he admitted his showmanship does be as much for the fans as himself. He also expressed his hope that the fanfare for which he is famed would lift peoples spirits in this most awful of years. His darts will do that anyway.