The examples of sportspeople – both in individual and team competitions – losing major fixtures before winning one, or more, as numerous. Even within my own GAA Club, the number of finals lost by far outweigh the quantity won. Which makes the ones you do come out on the right side of all the sweeter.
Just ask Munster rugby folk. The Thomond Park troops endured enough heartache in the Heineken Cup to break folk of lesser makeup, but instead it steeled the Red Army to drive on to European Cup glory in 2006 and 2008. In other words, though Fallon Sherrock will naturally be disappointed having lost out to Peter Wright in the quarter finals of the Grand Slam of darts, but on the night the vanquished star showed more than enough to suggest that she will win plenty such big games in the not too distant future.
Going into such fixtures, the less fancied combatant must strive to break from the gates quickly so as to ensure they are not overrun or overawed by the occasion. Initially at least, Sherrock had both boxes readily ticked. Leading as she did, 3-2 at the first break in play. As can often happen though, you felt the interval couldn’t have come at a worse time for the pink-clad performer as the force was very much with her.
Conversly, ‘Snakebite’ obviously got a lift from being only the one leg behind. With the result that he exerted a spell of dominance from which, try as she might, his opponent could never get past. But boy did she try. Coming from 12-8 down to regain parity before the Scot put his greater experience ob the big stage and longer format to good use and edged through by 16 to 13.
In the evening’s curtain raiser, Michael Smith faced a similar scenario to Sherrock. Albeit from a slightly different angle. Smith obviously has more experience of the bigtime and the big stage than the aforementioned but has often been found wanting when it comes to making a breakthrough in the big televised events.
In such a situation, Michael Van Gerwen is generally the last foe one would want to encounter. And, in the lead up to Saturday’s encointer it was felt the Green Machine had been in his best form for quite some time.
However, whatever happened tonight, Smith threw off the shackles while at the same time MVG has surely never been as inhibited as was the case here. On this night, mind you, I’m sure if he was possessed of William Tell’s acumen would it have made any difference.
Quite simply, the bustling St Helen’s man has never played as well or as continuously in a televised game as was the case tonight. Similarly to Sherrock, Smith would have desired a fairly quick salvo but got more than he could ever have hoped for.
Throwing some mezmerising tungsten en route to opening a 5-0 lead for himself. When Van Gerwen got his spell in the ascendancy – as he was always going to – where on another night Smith might have buckled – on this occasion he just kept on keeping on.
The big question now for the bearded one is can he keep doing it?