A former inter county dual GAA player once said to me “There’s only one place to really judge a player’s character – Croke Park. I knew what he meant. For a golfer see Augusta National, anyone in National Hunt horse racing is judged by what they do – or don’t – at the Cheltenham Festival and ditto Wimbledon for tennis.
Switch the narrative to darts and, with respect to all other events, the Ally Pally at Christmas is the one that really matters. The PDC World Championships and the race for the Sid Waddell Trophy is the real acid test of a player’s credentials.
Thus, while in no way attempting to detract from the astounding achievements of Beau Greaves on the oche of late – most notably a 62 match unbeaten run coming into the battle for the Sid Waddell Trophy, slinging arrows in Alexandra Palace amidst an estimated attendance of 85,000 over the two and a bit weeks is different gravy altogether.
That said, to the great credit of the 18-year-old, she did get off to a powerful start, taking out two tonne-plus finishes early on. But, as if to emphasise the magnitude of what playing at the London venue means, she had darts at a double to win the first two sets which, as they say, were only the width of a wire away. Shots which, in any other tournament, Greaves would pin with her eyes closed.
During commentary, it was mentioned that, if the youngster was any more laid back she’d be horizontal. Well, to that end, she certainly met her match here in Willie O’Connor.
The Limerick man can, admittedly, get feisty on occasions, but, the majority of the time, he looks like the lad strolling into the back room of his local on a midweek night.
Having said that, as Dire Straits famously sang, oh yeah, the boy can play. As was roundly acknowledged in the aftermath of O’Connor’s 3-0 win, Greaves undoubtedly has many great days to look forward to in the future, but, with a bit of luck, the man from Shannonside can keep rolling for another while yet in the shorter term.
At the other end of the scale, though, the talented but frightfully inconsistent Keegan Brown faces into the minefield that is PDC Qualifying School after not only exiting the competition but also losing his Tour Card as a result of his defeat to a German opponent.
Elsewhere, Lourence Ilagan won the first encounter of Act II against the ever colourful RJ Rodrigeuz of Austria while the in-form player on the circuit and many people’s top tip to take the title, Michael Smith, unfortunately (from an Irish perspective) had little bother in sidestepping Nathan Rafferty.