Earlier this week, in relation to players turning up to the Alexandra Palace laden down with expectations, the point was made that, regardless of any possibilities, producing on the greatest stage in the sport is another matter entirely.
Or for most players it is. Evidently, nobody sent the memo to Josh Rock. The 21-year-old Antrim lad first came to public attention last year when he romped to a 6-1 victory in the final of the World Youth Championship. Even allowing for that, though, the manner in which he has not only adjusted to life at the top table, but barged his way to a box seat at it has been truly astounding.
With the greatest of due respect to Rock’s opponent Jose Justicia, the Ulster youngster will undoubtedly face sterner examinations of his fortitude in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. For the present, though, he can and need only deal with the opponents who rock up beside him.
Starting with the equally flamboyant Callan Rydz next time out. Darts is at its best when played quickly, but even Road Runner will struggle to stay upsides those two.
From two players in the formative stages of their careers, to one who could be some of those in question’s parent. At this point, it will be admitted that not a clue was had in this corner about the ladies’ darts scene until Fallon Sherrock smashed the glass ceiling a few years back.
Surprises prompt research however. Very quickly into said reading up it became apparent that, prior to Fallon shocking Ted Evetts, Lisa Ashton was the standard bearer for the lady players. Deta Headman was the first to plant a flag but, to my knowledge, The Lancashire Rose was the first to make a meaningful impact in the men’s game.
Tonight, ultimately, defeat was again her lot against Ryan Meikle, but the bare result doesn’t tell a fraction of the story of what was another cracking encounter.
When the young English man raced into an early two set lead, it appeared that, again, Ashton was going to fall well short of what she is capable of at the London venue. From somewhere though, she summoned a thoroughly commendable comeback which sent the match into the final set decider it deserved.
No match is won in one set, obviously, but even in that last stanza alone, what became a slugfest could easily have gone either way and in the end it boiled down to Meikle holding his composure for a scintilla longer than his opponent.
In the night’s other games, Sherrock’s other half, the, eh, colourful Cameron Menzies stumbled over the line against the always admirable Diogo Portella of Brazil before dancing Dimitri Van Den Bergh underlined why he is this writer’s idea of a decent outside bet by concluding his victory over Lourence Illagan with an audacious 164 checkout.
The only problem now is, as far as this viewer is concerned, the action is going by far too quickly!