Ray Houghton’s goal against Italy in the Giant’s Stadium in New York was a remarkable thing. Never to be forgotten for myriad reasons. Not many would’ve had the audacity to try or capability to execute the lob essayed over Gianluca Pagluca – the best custodian on the planet at the time – which the man who put the ball in the English net did.
Though there were only eight minutes gone at the time, the midfielder’s strike would go into the annals as the catalyst for one of the greatest moments in Irism sporting history. That, and a truly Herculean defensive effort by Paul McGrath. Sadly that night is also recalled as the occasion of one of the worst attrocities in all of the Troubles in Northrrn Ireland, but that’s a story for another time.
The point here is that the outcome isn’t always as glorious as was the case that night. Look no further than Saturday’s action at the World Darts Championship. Not for the first time, a player achieved what is deemed perfection in that code – a nine dart finish – and still ended up vanquished at the end of the contest.
This evening, that’s exactly what happened to Darius Labinauskas. The Lithuanian vlaimed the first set of his clash against Mlke De Decker, but actually fell to pieces thereafter as the Belgian coasted to a 3-1 win.
Elsewhere during the afternoon session, the surprisingly flat Jamie Hughes was easily sidestepped by Raymond Smith of Australia. The latter is party to a unique set of circumstances in that his son Ky will also be in action later in the tournament.
Following that, the rise of Callan Rydz contlnued apace as the Geordie thrower stylishly shot his way past an obdurate but outclassed Asian opponent. The emergence of Rydz is just the latest boost for affairs of the arrows in that part of the world. They’ve already had Chris Dobey and Glen Durrant and Adam Hunt flying the flag for them, but, at present, Rydz looks the most likely to make a breakthrough uo the highest level.
To conclude the afternoon ‘card’ Ian ‘Diamond’ White got his latest rendezvous with the Ally Pally underway. An unkind soul might call White a journeyman pro. But apart from the fact that term is terribly derogatory to any professional sporsperson, it certainly sells the Diamond well short.
Moving on, after the now traditional Satuday fish and chip dinner, the enthralling action continued as firstly the aforementioned Hunt overcame another darting giant, the Croatian Boris Krcmar, then, the current Jim Williams proved himself to be as adept on the oche as was his namesake on the rugby pitch.
Following what seems to be a pattern in this season’s competition, the eventual winner got off to a quick start when taking on Ted Evetts only to see the man defeated by Fallon Sherrock last year up his game considerably before Mitchell regained his composure to put the seal on a 3-1 win.
Whatever about somebody like Jim Mitchell stuttering through his first round encounter on the sport’s biggest stage, it would not be expected that a similar affliction would strike somebody of the experience and proven pedigree of Michael Van Gerwen falls into such a trap it merely serves to illustrate the magnitude of the pressure which is appended to the biggest tournament the sport has to offer.
Mighty Mike didn’t look anything like his darting nickname suggested early on as the heretofore unheralded Chas Barstow began firing laser-like arrows straight from the off to blitz through the first set before MVG could have his throat cleared for a customary bellow of relief and intent.
From there on, while possibly not anywhere near the Galactico form of which he is undoubtedly capable, he showed enough flashes to recall a line imparted in this direction many moons ago in relation to the Dublin Gaelic football team – the first round of anything is the best and possibly only time you’d even think about wanting to face the Dutch darting destruction machine because if he generates a bit of momentum be afraid, be very afraid!