D’ya hear yer man

editorial image

He who darts wins

Last Thursday night the Lurgan Mail trio of Graeme ‘Yer Man’ Cousins, Alistair ‘The Boss’ Bushe and Gary ‘The Sniper’ Ellis had a quality night out at the darts.

Gary, who is the Lurgan Mail sports editor, is a longtime friend of darting legend Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, dating back to the early nineties when the English darts legend was a regular visitor to these shores. The Waringstown man’s friendship with the 16-time champion of the world meant he was able to call in a favour to get us into the press area for Thursday night’s opening night of the McCoy’s Premier League Darts in the Odyssey.

The picture I had in my head of the press area was one of lights, cameras and action, and possibly a free bar. In reality the press area was a small room where a revered silence was to be maintained. It contained several tables and half a dozen Dutch men on laptops.

Having sussed out the press area and blagged some complimentary bottled water we moved into the corridor where we hovered with menace outside the practice room where the players ‘get their eye in’ before heading out onto the stage.

I couldn’t help but think the security men were viewing us with a certain suspicion given that we weren’t Dutch and didn’t have laptops. We were told we weren’t allowed to take photos or ask the players for autographs as this was their ‘chill out’ zone. I think they knew rightly that we were darts groupies acting under the auspices of press men, a charge to which I plead guilty.

After watching some of the players come and go we were asked to stop loitering and take our seats, but not before Gary spotted his old friend Phil. He spoke to the world champion briefly and arrangements were made to meet him after the darts was over.

Back in the arena we took to our seats. We weren’t the only Lurgan lads in the Odyssey, with merry townsfolk featuring prominently in the crowd shots on Sky Sports throughout the night.

The crowd were treated to five cracking games, the highlight of which was the 6-6 draw between ‘The Power’ and young pretender ‘Mighty’ Michael van Gerwen.

At one point in the game it looked like Taylor might hit a nine-dart finish. For non-darts folk, a nine-dart finish is the term given to a perfect leg of darts, using the fewest number of darts possible (9) to checkout from 501. A nine-darter is a rarity - to put it in a perspective everyone can understand it’s a bit like opening a bag of Revels and picking out nine orange ones in a row.

There’s no point pretending that there aren’t a few people who use the darts as an excuse to over-indulge. There were several more-than-tipsy people in the Odyssey on Thursday night. I encountered one of them just before the last game of the night, in the men’s loos.

As I was queuing for one of the urinals when a few people struck up a song. “There’s only one Phil Taylor,” they sang.

This angered a man who was slumped against a wall to my left. He was obviously not a fan of Taylor’s and the singing prompted him to stagger forwards and start up a chant of his own. It went something like this: “There’s only one...” There was a long pause before he asked, “Waddaya call the fella that Taylor’s playing?

“Michael van Gerwen,” said a helpful soul.

The angry, staggering man struck up his song again. “There’s only one van Gergel,” he roared,.

Thankfully for him, his pitch was intimidating enough for everyone to ignore the fact he’d revealed himself to be a darts heathen.

As promised when the action was over we returned to the press area where we got an audience with Phil Taylor. I’d thought of loads of smart questions to ask him but when I shook hands with my sporting idol the best I could muster was ‘You’re great’. I was in total awe.

The good news is I remembered I’d brought a couple of photos for Phil to autograph. He signed them with the same surety and aplomb with which he throws darts. One of them has taken pride of place in our hallway while another will soon be displayed on the wall of the Village Inn in Waringstown.

A third signed photo is yet to find a good home and that’s where you come into the equation, dear reader.

I’ve got an autographed photo of Phil Taylor to give away to one lucky Lurgan Mail reader.

To be in with a chance of winning a signed photo of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor with his 16th world title answer the following question:

Which Dutch player did ‘The Power’ beat to win his 16th world title?

Email your answer to graeme.cousins@lurganmail.co.uk including your name and address and a daytime contact number.

Entries must arrive before midnight on Sunday (February 17). The names will be put in a hat and the winner will be drawn at random.

The winner will be announced in next week’s ‘D’ya hear yer man’ column.

As is usually the case, what’s given with one hand is taken away with the other. This week’s darts giveaway replaces the weekly teaser which will return next week. Last week’s answer was PERSPIRING.