Barry bites the dust at first hurdle

It was very much a mixed bag in terms of Irish interest on the opening night of the Cazoo World Championships of Darts at the Alexandra Palace in London.

Veteran thrower Mickey Mansell threw the first darts and the first 180 of the tournament as the Ulsterman recorded a rare victory for himself on the biggest stage in the sport. Overcoming the plucky but luckless Kiwi qualifier Ben Robb.

Next up from an Irish viewpoint was the match of utmost importance from a Co Meath perspective, as Duleek’s Keane Barry entered the fray against South African qualifier Grant Sampson. Few if any outside of the land of the Springbok will have heard of him.

However, the mere fact that Sampson had defeated Devon Petersen to earn his spot at the Ally Pally should have been signpost enough that he wasn’t an also-ran. It does probably mean that we probably won’t have the dulcet tones of Dancing Devon on commentary this year either. The Championship will be the poorer for that!

Anyone that hadn’t heard of Sampson up to this point will most likely hear about him now. Notwithstanding the fact that he proved himself to be an obdurate and crafty opponent, sadly the main talking point – of the entire first night – was just how below par Keane Barry was.

Averaging below 90 for most if not all of the contest, the 20-year-old east Meath missed at least a score of darts at doubles and at no point looked like he was going to haul himself back into the contest.

That’s not to say he didn’t make a valiant attempt to, rattling off four legs on the bounce at 1-2, it appeared our man was about to stage the sort of comeback citizens of the Royal County were once famed for.

Grant Sampson stuns Keane Barry

Recalling the old dictum that a picture can be worth a thousand words, while the mini rally was indeed admirable, even Barry’s own demeanour gave lie to any inclination he might be able to turn things around.

You’d just hope that the defeat wouldn’t have too much of an effect on him. Plenty of young players, like Keegan Browne, Willie Boreland and – dare one say it – Fallon Sherrock have promised much but never really delivered thereon.

There’s no doubt the young Meath man has the ‘game’ to go far in the sport providing what has got to be a big blow for the lad tonight doesn’t leave too much of a mark.

Tyrone on top: Nathan Rafferty beat Jermaine Wattimena

Mind you, if you analyse the Irish darting scene on an All Ireland basis – as all sports should be – there’s an arguement for saying the game has never been as strong here. For all that Barry’s departure might put a dent in that theory, what followed immediately afterwards was the panel beater to said dinge.

It often surprises even myself just how deeply ‘into’ darts that yours truly has got. A depth that often manifests in a longing from the time one TV tournament ends until the next comes around.

Incidentally, to that end, at the time of Players Championship Finals, I tried to sign up to pdc. tv in the hope of getting to see some of the action from Minehead. However, after very quickly accepting my payment – the fee was derisory but that’s not the point here – only after taking payment was it revealed that the streaming of matches wasn’t available in Ireland.

Apart from the financial aspect of the thing, which in reality wasn’t an issue at all, it’s the fact that, having paid the applicable fee for streaming one still wasn’t able to see the action.

That said, the darts website is far from alone in making it awkward to access content once they have your money! Anyway, enough of all that, thankfully, it didn’t take long for Irish eyes to be smiling again.

Which, somewhat ironically, brings us to where the Professional Darts Corporation website enters the equation. Allow me to explain. You see, having been glued to the Grand Slam action, Rafferty was one of the players that really caught the eye and whom one was keen to track the progress of in Minehead.

No doubt somebody will point out that the matches were being broadcast on ITV and could have been accessed there, but, with the Ulster station not being available on the main Sky package it can be quite the task for somebody like myself with a disability to track down the action.

For all that, early inclinations about Rafferty’s prowess have thus far proven to be extremely well founded. Especially after the Tyrone youngster came through an absolute belter against Jermaine Wattimena of The Netherlands. But it must be stated that that the latter is like some of the inconsistent sorts mentioned above. Akin to a certain part of the human anatomy in a young person – you never know what’s coming next!

Then, the first night’s action at the official start of Christmas concluded with defending champion Peter Wright getting his bid to begin a third year with the Sid Waddell Trophy on his kitchen table – it sure as hell won’t fit on the mantle piece – by dispatching Mansell 3-0.

On the face of it, such an outcome mightn’t look like anything worth writing home about, but when the travails the colourful kingpin, his wife Jo and their family have been through this year, to see him so sharp so early in proceedings must seem ominous to suitors to his crown.

More of the same today please…

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