Carlow's Steve Lennon bows out with head held high in all-time classic 3 weeks ago

Carlow's Steve Lennon bows out with head held high in all-time classic

The word "epic" gets thrown around a lot these days but Steve Lennon's clash with Alan Norris doesn't deserve to be described with any lesser term.

Lennon came up just short in one of the World Darts Championship's most thrilling games in recent memory as he bowed out on a nailbiting tie-break in the fifth set.

It was a neck-and-neck encounter in which both men enjoyed moments of brilliance but it was the grit displayed throughout that got Ally Pally on its feet for the second match in Thursday's afternoon session.

Norris might have treated the fans to maximums in consecutive legs to get the show started but it was the consistency of Lennon which saw him slow-and-steady his way to an early two-leg lead and while the Englishman clawed his way back to a decider in the first, Lennon held his throw and finished with composure to claim the opening set.

Lennon appeared to rush himself to match Norris' pace in the second set and he couldn't get going at all, conceding all three legs and struggling to find a treble.

A 107 checkout in the third set felt very much like the steadying of the ship for Lennon and he held his nerve to sneak into the lead.

The fourth set was fiercely contested and with the darts in the crucial leg, Norris levelled it up after a nervy error from the Irishman.

In the deciding set, Lennon ended up in the madhouse on Norris' throw and all the coolness he displayed when finding the double-one went out the window with the celebration of the dreaded finish.

After going 2-2 in sets and legs, Lennon had to win by two clear legs but couldn't manage that so we went to an 11th leg, which Norris claimed after setting up a finish of 81 thanks to a perfectly-timed maximum.

A standing ovation greeted the mutual respect which was shown as the pair embraced after the exhausting match in which both men gave everything.

From an Irish perspective, Lennon's defeat leaves Limerick's Willie O'Connor, Derry's Daryl Gurney and Fermanagh's Brendan Dolan left in the tournament which comes to an end on New Year's Day.