In the preceding two years, the darting journey of Daryl Gurney has led him down a fast-track to success. Two semi-finals and a handful of quarter final’s later, the Northern Irishman’s career is in full flow, flourishing with tremendous colour.
The 31-year-old has penetrated the top 20 barrier in PDC Order of Merit and with the wind in his sails, will be looking to use this momentum to leapfrog into a coveted top 16 spot. Despite this, Gurney told me he knows he still has a long way to go: “I still believe I need to find that extra 5-10% and quality. Big games are hard to play in, when you’re playing against the likes of Peter Wright, Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen, if they’re hitting you with 120 average somehow you’ve got to still beat them”
A valid point from the Derry dartist, no longer can you trundle along with tonne averages and claim a major prize in world darts. The standard has risen dramatically in the last decade that 115 averages are no longer shocking. To the point where the likes of Phil Taylor lost with such a score to Raymond van Barneveld in the 2015 Premier League.
With the weekly Premier League meetings advancing the gaping hole between the world’s elite and the chasing pack, the transition into a world class player or a major winning threat is becoming more and more difficult. This makes Gurney’s recent exploits even more impressive. Gurney said: “Now I’m obviously feeling the benefits for the last twelve months especially, and that’s what it’s about”.
“I was pleased to get to the semi-final but I’m still looking for that extra couple of percentage so I can get to a final and see how I push on from there. The more games I play on the big stage the more experienced I get and therefore I’m not as nervous and know what to expect”.
It has been said by authority figures within the PDC that Gurney was a fingertip away from joining the line-up for this year’s Premier League. The governors of the world-renowned darts roadshow instead opted to give Belgian star Kim Huybrechts a second shot at the big time. The Hurricane has languished at the foot of the table, and was eliminated on night eight in Manchester last week.
Despite, being omitted from this select group, Gurney was determined not to be put down by this minor setback: “My name was mentioned and it was said that I came very close, but other than that it didn’t really bother me because personally I believed there were a few players that deserved a mention before I did. I was very grateful to get a mention, I think maybe another year as Barry says to get ready and be more experienced will help me in the long run.”
Success doesn’t just come in the form of trophies and prize money; the respect and crowd reaction is now an enormous cog in the darting machine. Gurney is now accompanied by Neil Diamond classic ‘Sweet Caroline’ on his walk to the oche, and the response has been nothing short of breath-taking.
The part time mechanic has admitted that it is “one of the best walk-ons right now”. There’s no doubting that, and with his stock increasing by the day we could soon see hear the iconic tune being song being sung around the country in an array of Premier League venues.
With the World Championship quarter finalist still working as a part time mechanic, that elusive major triumph may still be a stretch too far for 2017 to handle. Afterall “working as a plumber during the day and having a few hours practice in the evenings” can’t be an easy package to juggle with.
With more time dedicated to the sport he loves, Gurney could flourish into one of the sports great stars and become a household name in the meantime. His game has improved dramatically in all areas over the past 18 months, and with the World Matchplay fast approaching, we will have another chance to re-evaluate what Northern Ireland’s darting genius can do.