Wednesday 4 January 2017

The End of an Era.

After winning nearly everything possible in 2016, it is no surprise that Michael van Gerwen topped off a perfect year with the big one, the one trophy that he 'would throw all other titles in the bin for' with a glittering display over the defending World Champion Gary Anderson. There is no doubt that he has deserved every bit of his recent success with astronomical averages and incredible performances against the most talented players, he can be at times unbeatable, but I can guarantee he won't carry the title of 'World Champion' with as much humility and grace as his predecessor.

Gary Anderson was, in my short time of following darts (10 years) the best World Champion I've seen in the way that he conducted himself on and off the board. He strikes me as a man that has achieved all he set out to do and just enjoyed the ride and his attitude towards losing is one that other players should look at and emulate, which is quite unlikely to happen with current crop of players.

Over-confidence seems to a mindset that works well for a lot of the young players such as van Gerwen, Daryl Gurney, Joe Cullen and the young Australian Corey Cadby and I can completely understand why this behavioural method would work. Darts is a game of mental strength and is decided on who can hit the key shots at the most important times in matches and if you have as much belief in your ability as these players, then you are more likely to punish your opponents and also bounce back from any big punches that your opponents might throw at you. It's a bullish approach that has been perfected by the 16 time World Champion Phil Taylor in the past, but in recent years his ego has taken somewhat of a battering from the young talent that do not show respect to the veteran players, and why should they?? After Suljovic destroyed Mr Taylor 10-3 in the European Championship he looked to me as if he was apologetic towards getting the better of his darting idol. It's this type of respect that is dwindling from the game and it is making for more competitive fields as a result. A low ranked 20 year old player would play a top 5 hardened professional with absolutely no fear and because of this it is no longer a surprise to see a player of this age to have some considerable scalps throughout the year.

In interviews over the past year I have noticed van Gerwen becoming more and more confident to a point where he is verging on an unlikeable arrogance and other fans have been noticing it too, but will the Dutch man care what other people think of him? No. Should he care? Not if he keeps his winning mentality and can back it up with his performances.

The game is changing dramatically and with the inevitable MVG domination and production line of Dutch youngsters looking to make a name for themselves, I can't help but think that Gary Anderson maybe the last player with the old school values to represent the sport as the World Champion.

Sunday 13 December 2015

World Championship Preview

The World Championships are upon us, all of the hard work put in by the players throughout the year comes down to this. This is the biggest stage of them all, where a lesser known player can rocket to stardom, where dreams can come true...or for Michael van Gerwen to win...again.

The Dutchman is in, what can only be described as, ridiculous form. He has won the European Championship, the World Series, the Grand Slam and the Players Championships since the beginning of November. Understandably 'MVG' is a big bookmakers favourite to win his second World Championship, but in this post I will be looking at who I think can possibly challenge the world number 1.

The top half of the draw is by far the most difficult half to win, it includes Michael van Gerwen, Raymond van Barneveld, Michael Smith, Mensur Suljovic, Peter Wright and Dave Chisnall, but the player I will be taking a chance with is Adrian Lewis.

The 2 time world champion has hit a nice little bit of form in the past couple of months reaching the final of the Players Championship and the semi-finals of both the World Series and the European Championship. 'Jackpot' could potentially meet either Gerwyn Price or Andrew Gilding in the second round, followed by Suljovic or Kim Huybrechts. Not a straight forward start to the tournament for Lewis, and it doesn't get any easier with Peter Wright and Chisnall possible opponents in the quarter-finals.

Despite the poor draw, I think Lewis will be able to mount a strong challenge towards winning a 3rd World Championship, a prolific scorer and on his day he can hit some huge checkouts, if he is hitting his doubles well then there is no reason why he can't beat anyone right now. He's not the biggest price at 16/1, but I will be getting a few quids on.

Onto the bottom half of the draw, and in particular the 4th quarter. This section includes 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor who is justifiably favourite to progress to the Semi-Finals, but after arguably the worst year of 'The Power's' career I will be backing Robert Thornton.

The Scotsman was my prediction to win the World Grand Prix back in October and he duly obliged by defeating Michael van Gerwen in possibly one of the best finals I have ever witnessed. The Thorn's greatest attribute is his never say die attitude and not knowing when he is beat and in set play format this is very important. Alongside his great attitude is relentless double 20 hitting and tremendous scoring power which sees him regularly feature at the latter stages of big tournament.
After that remarkable triumph which saw him claim his 2nd TV Major in PDC, the Thorn's form dipped with a few poor performances which he claims was down to problems with the heel of his foot, but all seems to be restored now and I think he will go deep into this years World Championship.

Robert has been handed a tricky 1st round match against Alan Norris which could be a potential banana skin but his class should shine through, he could also meet in-form Mark Webster in the last 16 then a potential Quarter Final match-up with Phil Taylor. I genuinely believe that Thornton can do some serious damage this year and at 66/1 he is well worth an each way bet and hopefully he can recreate that dramatic night in Dublin.

Current World Champion Gary Anderson is one of my favourite players, on his day he is the biggest scorer in the world, but his form lately has me worried that he could be an early faller this year. In the last month he has lost matches against Mark Webster, Terry Jenkins and Daryl Gurney, compared to this time last year where he was on a 12 match unbeaten run. I think there is a chance to take advantage of this quarter of the draw and the player I will be choosing is Kyle Anderson. He is a player with bundles of talent and is on the verge of a big run in a tournament, so why not do it on the biggest stage?

The Australian faces an out-of-form Brendan Dolan in the first round who has really been struggling this year followed by possibly Vincent van der Voort. A tough match but one that I think he can progress from. From the last 16 he could face Gary Anderson, this could be the match that sees Kyle burst onto the scene and put his mark on the tournament. You can back the 'Original' at a huge 500/1 to win the tournament, a bit unrealistic so I will be on him to win the 3rd quarter at 66/1, Betfred have already shortened this bet to 16/1 and others might follow in the coming days so get on early as it's a bit of value in my eyes.

The whole tournament comes down to 2 points in my opinion. 1. If Gary Anderson is on form and 2. If anyone can stop MVG. If 1 of these key factors don't happen then there will be a surprise package. To conclude, it's going to be a great tournament with some memorable moments no doubt and to say I'm excited is an understatement. Enjoy the spectacle folks and Happy Christmas!

Suggested Bets: Adrian Lewis Each Way 16/1
                           Robert Thornton Each Way 66/1
                           Kyle Anderson to win 3rd quarter 66/1

Friday 2 October 2015

World Grand Prix Prediction and Robert Thornton Interview

The World Grand Prix starts this Sunday in Dublin. I was going to post my predictions, but to be honest, I only really have one...Robert Thornton. He was unlucky to lose what turned out to be a history making match against James Wade in the last 16 stage last year where both players registered 9-dart finishes in the same match, a feat that had only ever been achieved once before in the double in-double out format by Brendan Dolan.
In 2012 at this event, the Scotsman reached the Quarter Final stage where he lost to Mervyn King, but he was impressive when he knocked out Phil Taylor in the previous round with a 96.6 average.
The Thorn's accuracy at double 20 is very strong, something that is desperately needed at the World Grand Prix to both get started in each leg and finish it.
Thornton's opponent in the first round is Northern Irish man Daryl Gurney. Not exactly a walk in the park, but it could have been worse with only the top 8 players being seeded. In the Second Round he could face either Steve Beaton or Justin Pipe, again not as bad as it could have been, but the current World Champion could be the next opponent in the Quarter Finals. Gary Anderson hasn't been on top form lately and in my opinion Thornton could give him a good game and get the victory.

I set out to arrange an interview with Robert to hear his thoughts on the draw and his current form. Have a read below to find out what he had to say.

Robert Thornton

Nickname: The Thorn
Born: 17th July 1967
Darts: Robert Thornton 26 Gram Red Dragon
Major Titles: BDO World Masters 2007, UK Open 2012
Current PDC Ranking: 7

Declan McCormickHello Robert, firstly thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. How do you think 2015 has went for you so far?

Robert Thornton: I think I’ve done okay. I’ve won a European Tournament, where I played very well. It looks like that has got me in the Grand Slam and I’ve been lucky enough to be selected for the World Series finals and we are into the business end of the season now so I will judge my year on the next three months.

Declan: You narrowly missed out on the Premier League earlier this year. In the long run do you think this has benefited your game due to not having to travel as much?

Robert: I wouldn’t say so. I enjoyed every minute of being in the Premier League and am working hard to get back in it. What I do know is that being in it definitely benefitted my game.

Declan: The World Grand Prix is next week and you seem to always play well at this event. Did you set this tournament as one of your main targets at the beginning of the year?

Robert: I go into every tournament believing I can win it. I have a lot of good memories from the Grand Prix so I’m hoping I can make even better ones.

Declan: Are you happy with the draw?

Robert: It doesn’t really bother me because there are no easy draws these days and you have to beat the best players to win any tournament.

Declan: You could potentially meet Gary Anderson and James Wade on your way to the Semi Finals next week. Do you ever think that far ahead in tournaments or do you just get on with your game?

Robert: It’s all about taking one game at a time. If you allow yourself to think too far ahead then you lose focus on the task at hand.

Declan: Finally, as I am a massive fan of yours I'd love to see you win a World Championship. Do you think your form is good enough to give it a go this year?

Robert: We’ll see over the next couple of months but I’m happy so far that my game is in a good place and if I can take it up a level, I’ll be there or thereabouts.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Exclusive Stephen Bunting Interview

Stephen Bunting

Nickname: The Bullet
Born: 9th April 1985
Hometown: St Helens, Merseyside, England
Darts: Target Bullet Darts 12 Grams
Major Title Wins: BDO World Championship 2014
Current PDC Ranking: 19

Declan McCormick: Hello Stephen, firstly thanks for giving up your time to answer a few questions. You have been playing well since joining The PDC at the beginning of 2014. Have you got any targets on where you would like to be in the Order of Merit come the end of the year?

Stephen Bunting: I want to be ranked as high as possible, my target is to break into the top 16 by the end of the year and I believe that is very achievable. 

Declan: You have recently changed back to your old set up that helped you win the BDO World Championship. Do you feel you can win a major in the PDC with these darts?

Stephen: I believe so. The target Gen 2 darts are amazing but I felt I was not as consistent and my confidence was not as high with them. I won the lakeside with the darts I am throwing now so there is a lot of confidence with those ones. I believe these darts will help me win many majors. 

Declan: The World Series was a great event that is spreading the word of darts around the globe. How did find the experience?

Stephen: It was amazing. Playing in countries I could never have dreamed of going to was surreal. The atmosphere in all the World Series events was epic and I can't wait for the finals in Glasgow. 

Declan: You have enjoyed many memorable moments during your career, including winning the BDO World Championship, but what is your proudest achievement to date?

Stephen: My proudest achievement has to be winning the lakeside. I had several attempts to try and win the title and fortunate for me I eventually won it. I must say being involved in the premier league and the experience that came with that has to be a close second. 

Declan: St Helens has produced a lot of top darts players over the years including yourself and Dave Chisnall. Is there a reason why so many from St Helens become professional?

Stephen: I don't think so. There is a lot of great players in St. Helens but just like Stoke. St Helens isn't the biggest town but there is a great darting interest and a lot of pub teams in the town. I think there must be something in the water. 

Declan: Finally, if you could pick any player to be your doubles partner who would it be?

Stephen: I would have to say Dave Chisnall. He is a close friend and also one of the best dart players in the world.

Monday 21 September 2015

Exclusive Simon Whitlock Interview

Simon Whitlock

Nickname: The Wizard
Born: 3rd March 1969
Nationality: Australian
Darts Weight: 22 Grams
Major Title Wins: 2012 European Championship
Best World Championship Finish: Runner-Up
Current PDC Ranking: 11

Declan McCormick: Hello Simon, thanks for giving up your time to answer a few of these questions. Your form has been good this year, do you feel like you are returning to your excellent best that we all saw when you moved to the UK?

Simon Whitlock: I think I could’ve done better this year but I’m getting there. I have changed a few things with my set up and I always knew that it might be a case of taking a step back before I can move forward. I feel like I’m on that upward curve now though and I’m looking forward to the rest of the seasons.

Declan: We are approaching the final string of tournaments in a busy few months leading up to the World Championships, what targets have you set for the remainder of 2015?

Simon: I haven’t really set any specific targets in terms of results this year. I just want to keep improving and get back to where I was a couple of years ago and I believe that if I keep doing what I’m doing then I can be even better.

Declan: You have changed your darts on several ocassions over the past few years, are you confident in your current setup and do you plan on keeping it the same for the foreseeable future?

Simon: I knew I had to make a change and I will be sticking by it. I just need to keep playing to get used to the new set up so I plan to keep it as it is as I know I can play a lot better with more practice.

Declan: The World Series was a fantastic event to watch and it is putting darts on a global map. How does it feel to play in front of your home fans who see you as their darting hero?

Simon: I really enjoyed playing in the World Series. It is always great to go back to Australia. The game there is in good shape and is getting even better. I always get a good reception in most places luckily, but I always get goosebumps in my walk-ons in Australia.

Declan: You have had some memorable experiences since you burst onto the PDC scene in 2010 most notably being runner up in the World Championships when being unseeded and registering a 9-darter in the Premier League, but what has been your proudest moment so far?

Simon: I think the nine-darter in the Premier League has to be up there and I am proud to have reached the World Championship final but my proudest moment is definitely winning the European Championship in 2012. Not that many players win majors in the modern age of darts with so many good players around so I’m so pleased to have achieved that.

Declan: Thanks for your time Simon and good luck for the rest of the year.

Monday 14 September 2015

Red Dragon Inferno 24 Gram Darts Review

After 2 years of using my beloved Robert Thornton darts, I have finally found a dart that is worthy enough to take their place, the Red Dragon Inferno 24 Gram. It is approaching a big day in my short/non existent career so far, this Friday 18th September 2015, I will be participating in my first ever competitive match down in the local pub and I will be armed with the highest quality of tungsten about. It is testament to these darts that I will be using them on my d├ębut despite only picking them up for the first time 2 weeks ago, a decision that wasn't easy but I am confident that it's the right one.

Some basic information about the Inferno Darts:
Weight- 24 Grams
Tungsten- 90% Tungsten alloy
Dimensions- 6.5mm x 50.8mm
Thread- 2BA
Weight Distribution- Centre
Barrel Profile- Parallel
Front Profile- Round
Grip Type- Dual grooves
Grip Zone- Full length

What you get:
Darts- x3 Darts per set
Flights- x1 Set Hardcore Black Standard
             x1 Set Hardcore Orange Standard
Shafts- x1 Set aluminium medium orange Red Dragon printed
Wallet- x1 Leather Red Dragon Wallet

First of all, I'm no Gok Wan, but the black and orange throughout these darts works a treat and it certainly caught my eye whilst scrolling through Red Dragon's new 2015 range and 2 days after placing my order they were in my hand and they didn't disappoint. The orange stems and flights along with the barrel will make sure that you have the nicest looking darts down at the pub.

The dual grooves grip on the Inferno darts remind me of both World Champion Gary Anderson and 'The Machine' James Wade's darts, the only difference being that they are finished off with PDV black effect surface finish, giving them that extra bit of grip that may prove the difference between scoring 85 or 100. I would rate the grip at about 3/5 (1= smooth, 5= aggressive) which I think is just about right, enough to avoid slips and not so much that it catches on your fingers upon release. For the first time ever, I have kept the original stems that are provided with the darts as the extra length seems to work, but it is up to the individual to decide whether to change the stem size.

The Inferno's are ideal for any player that is looking for a long and thin dart at a very reasonable price. The grip intensity is perfect thanks to the black coating and the sleek look has completely won me over. The Thornton darts have been put away in a safe place, maybe not forever, but for the foreseeable future and I will keep you all updated about my upcoming match via my Twitter account, fingers crossed that the Infernos can do the trick!

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Perth Masters Preview

The World Series 8 have arrived in Australia for the annual Perth Masters event and they are joined by some Aussie challengers who won't let them have it all their own way.

The draw has thrown up some interesting first round matches including Raymond van Barneveld vs Simon Whitlock and Stephen Bunting vs Kyle Anderson, but it is the 2nd round that is more appealing with a potential Adrian Lewis vs Gary Anderson match-up along with other potential epic encounters. Below I will provide some predictions of the first round matches and the overall winner:

Stephen Bunting vs Kyle Anderson

The first round match that immediately caught my eye was Stephen Bunting vs Kyle Anderson. I think 'The Bullet' was very unlucky with this draw as I see Anderson as the best of the Australian challengers. His rise in the PDC over the past 18 months has been incredible, and if you have read my blog recently you would know that I am a big fan of his. His qualification for the World Matchplay in July was a great achievement in itself, but to nearly get the better of eventual finalist James Wade in the first round was very impressive. He lost the match 10-7 with a 99 average, but that doesn't tell half of the story as he had 'The Machine's' back against the ropes at 7-7 but lost his way for the last 3 legs, a good performance no the less. Then Wade went on to make the final beating World Matchplay specialist Phil Taylor along the way so this just shows just how well both Anderson and Wade were playing.
Stephen Bunting is also another player who has been progressing well since he joined the PDC and has justified his invites to events in the past year with a good performance in the Premier League along with a run to the Final of the Sydney Masters last year, so he will have good memories of playing in Australia. The World Matchplay didn't go as planned for 'The Bullet' as he lost 10-6 to Ian White but he was not disgraced with a 101.62 average and he would probably get the title of most unlucky first round loser. His form has been a bit patchy lately, but when he pulls it together in the big matches he can beat anyone which he has shown in the past with wins against Phil Taylor, Gary Anderson, Adrian Lewis and James Wade along with many more in the last past 9 months.

The best of 11 legs format shouldn't trouble either player as both have played this length of match for the majority of their careers. They have met 5 times in the past with 'The Bullet' winning 4 of the matches, although interestingly the last 4 meetings between the pair has went to a last leg decider. This could be another very tight match but due to his inconsistency lately I think Bunting could be the first seeded casualty of the weekend with Anderson marching onto the 2nd round.

Match Prediction: Kyle Anderson 6-5 Stephen Bunting

Raymond van Barneveld vs Simon Whitlock

Things just don't seem to be going Barney's way. He hasn't been at his best lately, most notably during a 10-7 loss to Andy Hamilton at the World Matchplay where the big Dutchman averaged a measly 89.8. He would have been hoping for a nice draw here to virtually guarantee a 2nd round match against one of the big guns to hopefully give him a confidence boost, but sadly it hasn't worked out that way. He has drawn World Number 10 Simon Whitlock, who recently broke his year long TV Major duck by beating the fancied Jelle Klaasen in the first round of the World Matchplay, not exactly good timing for Mr Barneveld but perfect for 'The Wizard' returning to his home country. This is another hard match to call, I would love to say van Barneveld should progress, but in my opinion Simon Whitlock will be really up for this and will want to win a match on home soil and to avoid letting the crowd down, who will no doubt be singing their lungs out for their fellow countryman which could only enhance his chances. The form book goes completely out the window, but due to home advantage and confidence I will be swaying towards 'The Wizard'.

Simon Whitlock 6-4 Raymond van Barneveld

Outright Winner

The usual suspects have obvious claims. World Number 1 Michael van Gerwen is fresh off the back of World Matchplay glory, Phil Taylor is the defending champion of the Perth Masters and of course World Champion Gary Anderson is the man on form, but despite these challengers, my prediction for the player to be victorious overall is World Number 4 Peter Wright. He has drawn Paul Nicholson who is slowly dropping down the rankings and hasn't found any form at all in the last 12 months, so that should be relatively routine for 'Snakebite' if he were to win then it would most likely set up a 2nd round clash with James Wade, a tough task, but one I think the Scotsman can win due to his recent form being so good. He had a great week in Blackpool where he reached the Semi Finals losing to eventual winner and World Number 1 Michael van Gerwen but he beat Kim Huybrechts, Andrew Gilding and Gerwen Price very nicely along the way. He is due to win a big tournament soon, he can't keep playing this well without winning something and think his time is now.
I am also going to give Kyle Anderson a shout. He has been so impressive recently that I could see him having a good run soon, although if he wins his 1st round match he will most likely be facing defending champion Phil Taylor in the 2nd round, an almost impossible task, but with the crowd firmly on his side you never know what can happen.

Prediction: Peter Wright
                  Kyle Anderson each way