The great Ger Loughnane, who lead Clare from hurling oblivion to the ancient game’s highest peak, once said “It takes a good team to win one All Ireland, but it takes a great team to win two”. The maxim can probably be applied to competitors in any sport’s showpiece competition.
Which is probably what, in a darting context, sets the likes of Eric Bristow (RIP) and Raymond Van Barneveld and John Part and Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis and Gary Anderson apart from the pack. However, even though Peter Wright’s defence of the Sid Waddell trophy capitulated at just the second hurdle on Sunday night, I would cut the affable Scot some slack.
Firstly, owing to the reasons outlined above. Even more so, though, because he, like most of us, has been very deeply effected by the chaos Covid and all its associated awfulness has visited upon the entire world. He can hold his head up high however because he played his part in a wonderful match and went out on his shield during the most awesome day and night’s arrows action the one seeing eye here has ever been cast on.
Wright also had the misfortune of encountering a man on a rapid ascent true the echelons of the sport, the German Giant, Gabriel Clemens. There’s something about tall players that makes them intriguing to watch. Perhaps mostly due to the rapidity with which they dispatch their missiles. That was very much in evidence as Clemens defenestrated the title holder after one of what were a plethora of enthralling encounters at the Alexandra Palace on Sunday.
The big man from Bavaria is known for his powerful scoring and in the end it was that which enabled him to complete the usurpation of the defending kingpin. In fairness to the latter, it was obvious to see that he was missing the crowd interaction off which he ravenously feeds. Yet he still made the tie an absolute spellbinder taking it all the way to the last dart of the last leg despite his finishing going to pieces.
After Kristof Ratjaski started the day and Michael Van Gerwen recording whitewash victories, in between lay the sumptuous filling to the most delectable sporting sandwiches served up in quite a while. Seeing someone succeed and overcoming adversity in doing so only adds to the appeal thereof.
By his own admission, Joe Cullen from Stockport has an awful record at his sport’s most celebrated venue. There needs to be another deposit in the credit column, mind you, after he somehow managed to extricate himself from what seemed a perilous position against his Tour roommate and great friend Jonny Clayton.
Earlier in the day, following Ratajski’s surprisingly easy success over Simon Whitlock, Ryan Searle continued his career progression when emerging from another quality contest against the consistently inconsistent Kim Huybrechts. The other two games on the day may have had 4-0 scorelines but that wouldn’t tell the first paragraph of the story.
Yes, Dimitri Van den Bergh recorded a fairly straightforward success against Jermaine Wattimena, but, to simply observe the similar outcome in the joust between Michael Van Gerwen and Ricky Evans and – in terms of the story of the game – the end scoreline is thereof is about as far out as were those speculating on the outcome of the BREXIT vote in the UK a few years back.
More seasoned observers than I would concur with the summation that it was the best Evans ever produced in a televised game. Which in itself presented a few talking points which will be well worth following the development of in the weeks and months ahead. That ‘Rapid Ricky’ may be capable of taking his game to the next levels, and conversely, that Van Gerwen may not find it as easy to bypass opponents as he has been used to.