Six players, six counties - The Irish interest in World Darts Championships 11 months ago

Six players, six counties - The Irish interest in World Darts Championships

It's darts time.

It's time to sit back and enjoy all the guilty pleasures in life without any of the guilt. It's time to bet on men and their darts even though you've never heard of them before but because his walk-out tune is good and he looks like he can throw a dart. It all adds to the thrill of it.

It's time to drink while doing it and smoke if you like too, because you can, because it's Christmas time, it's darts time.

The brilliantly fixed World Darts Championship begins this Thursday and it will be occupying our screens and our attention spans until 2019 is a day old.

Nothing signals Christmas like the first dart being thrown in Ally Pally, to the second one to another one and another one, each one more entertaining than the last and each one more engrossing than the next to the point that your head is nearly inside the television screen by the time Snakebite or Superchin or someone like that is collecting their three tungsten arrows off the board.

And then they go again. Bang, bang, bang.

Christmas makes the darts. The darts makes Christmas.

Some blinkered soul might say they don't like darts but if they watch it for more than ten seconds even the most stubborn of them will admit to being entertained.

That's what it does, that's what it is.

96 darts players have made it to Alexander Palace Way this year with the aim of becoming world champion. Six of them are from this island.

1 Daryl Gurney (Derry)

A divisive figure to say the least but there's absolutely no denying Gurney's ability. He's seeded fifth and he'll fancy himself against anybody. The Players Champion was knocked out at the second round last year but he comes here in great form and with high expectations.

Last year, he hit the highest check-out of the whole tournament in a 170.

First game: Round two, Tuesday, December 18 v winner of Paul Lim, Ross Smith.

Walk-on music: Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond

2 Steve Lennon (Carlow)

Carlow man Steve Lennon is next up. He qualified to take part through the pro tour and he'll be hoping to build on his performance at this stage last year.

He went down, but only after a brave fight against 13th seed Michael Smith and he earned plenty of admirers during that 3-2 loss.

World number 48, he made it to the Dutch Darts Masters final this year, only beaten by Michael van Gerwen.

First game: Round one, Tuesday, December 18 v James Bailey.

Walk-on music: Dearg Doom by Horslips

3 Mickey Mansell (Tyrone)

The Clonoe Cyclone walks on to the music of Mark McCabe and he already has the crowd on his side. Competed here in 2013 and in 2015 and the 45-year-old has as much experience as any of them.

First game: Round one, Saturday, December 15 v Jim Long

Walk-on music: Maniac 2000 by Mark McCabe

4 Brendan Dolan (Fermanagh)

The history maker plays in his tenth World Darts Championships this year. He has never made it past the second round but he has gotten Ally Pally going before, like the time he checked out with 142 in 2017.

First game: Round One Sunday December 16 v Yuanjun Liu

Walk-on music: The Wild Rover by The Pogues

5 William O'Connor (Limerick)

The World number 52 made his debut at the World Darts Championships last year, but he's rounding into this year's renewal in stronger form, having made it to his first PDC final at the European Matchplay competition last year.

First game: Round One, December 16 v Yordi Meeuwisse

Walk-on music: The Irish Rover by The Pogues and The Dubliners

6 Kevin Burness (Down)

Burness won the Tom Kirby memorial Irish match-play this year to book his place in Ally Pally. This will be his debut in dart's blue riband event.

First game: Round one, Friday 14 December v Paul Nicholson

Walk-on music: Child's Anthem by Toto

Let the games begin.