As breakthroughs go in sporting life, 2017 was a pretty stellar year in the world of darts for Daryl Gurney.
Northern Ireland’s current darting hero ripped up the form books making the quarter-finals of the World Championship and Grand Slam, and went one better at the UK Open and World Matchplay, making the the semi-finals of both of those.
However, his biggest moment in his career (so far) came at the World Grand Prix in October, where he saw off the challenge of Simon Whitlock to win his first ever TV major.
2018 has been a case of steadying the ship for the world number five, but he heads into the Champions League of Darts in Brighton looking forward to taking on the best in the world.
“The format of the tournament definitely suits me with it being leg on leg as opposed to sets,” Gurney said.
“I can just batter everybody for legs, sometimes it’s a small bit harder when the pressure is on to win a set. So, when it’s leg on leg it’s a case of mano a mano and that’s a bit better.”
Superchin couldn’t have asked for a tougher draw in Group A as he sits in there in the company of Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and Dave Chisnall. Gurney is taking it all in his stride though.
“Honestly, I’d prefer to be in the group I’m in because for me Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson are still the best two players in the world.
“The way I see it is, they’re expected to beat me anyway and I’d prefer to get a go at them. I know I always play well against them, it’s just a matter of getting over the finish line. Then I have to play my good mate Dave Chisnall as well.”
There’s no doubt who the favourites are in the betting to advance from the group, but Gurney is embracing the steep challenge in front of him.
“I really like to be the underdog because whenever you play in some arenas as a higher seed sometimes the crowd will just favour the other player because I’m better known,” Gurney told us yesterday.
“However, when I’m playing the bigger players, that’s kind of reversed because they are higher profile than me and then I get a bit more support.
I like playing the higher ranked players because what’s the worst that could happen at the end of the day.
“If they hammer you and I know I’ve still played well but they’ve played brilliant, then I can live with that.”
There’s more power in Group A than Phil Taylor’s walk-on music, but Gurney is mature enough to realise that doubling out will be the most important factor in the race for progression.
“Anybody in the world can hit 180’s, but the 76’s to 116’s are the ones that matter. If you are finishing them all the time with our scoring power, you’re going to be hard to beat.
Some days you’ll leave that shot a millimetre or two outside the wire and he’s in by a whisker or two.”
“You’ll get beaten because of that simple fact, even if there’s nothing between you both in the rest of the match.”
“You can have scoring power, but it all comes down to finishing. If you can get your percentage up to over 50, you’re going to give yourself a good opportunity to win. However, even mid to low 40s will give you a chance. Anything lower than that though and you’re going to get a sore beating.”
While there’s no doubting Northern Ireland’s finest wants to win in Brighton, he knows it’s important not to get ahead of himself and he’s only going to focus on his own performance.
“I don’t want to lose any games. However, with the quality of players in the PDC nowadays you are always going to lose a game, sooner rather than later,” said Gurney.
“It’s not a matter of I’m that good, I can beat everybody. It’s everyone else is that good, they can beat you and it doesn’t matter if you are having an A+ day, they can still catch you.
“I’d like to get out of my group and if you can win your first two games, you’ll probably do that.”
“I’ve no idea about the money aspect, because I never ask about that. For me, it’s all about playing well and doing the best you can do.”