Darts is ace and I've watched it most of my life. Ever since Keith Deller wiped the smart-arsed grin off Eric Bristow's face by chucking that 138 in to win the 1983 World Championships, I've been hooked. Have a look at it here...
The BDO World Championships is the traditional tournament and the more prestigious, even though the PDC splinter contest on Sky has the higher prize money and more players. Last night, the final was a great contest, great sport and a viewing spectacle matchable by little in terms of high drama.
I had a vested interest this year as Tony O'Shea had reached the final. I've known him a few years as he is a proud Stopfordian. He lives in Stockport still, for many years was the greenkeeper at one of the local golf clubs and is a Stockport County nut. I used to see him at the Edgeley Park bar after every home game when I was commentating there and got to know him well. His wife and sister frequently come to my club night and Tony himself turns up when he's not at a match - either football or darts, that is.
Tony took the first set against Ted Hankey but then conceded the next two and for ages couldn't quite bring the deficit back entirely - from 2-1 down it went to 3-1, then 3-2, then 4-2, then 4-3, then 5-3, then 5-4, then 6-4. Each time Tony pulled a set back, his opponent would then re-establish the two-set cushion. At 6-4, Ted needed just one more set for the title.
Then Ted missed everything he would have thrown for jam in his own garage. Simple singles which would have left him a double and out, plus the doubles themselves. each time he flunked and his nerve went, Tony would step in and clean up. He got it to 6-5 then, when he had no right to, managed to level up and force the decider.
Sadly, Tony had shot his bolt by this point and Ted won the deciding set and the title. Tony had to contend himself with the £30,000 runners-up cheque and the goodwill of the majority of the watching punters at the Lakeside. He conducted his post-game interview grinning and, as ever, had a County scarf draped round his neck and shouted "Blue Army!" as the broadcast ended.
Darts has its detractors, but you try playing 13 sets on such a big stage with so much at stake. These guys are athletic as far as their mental and emotional beings are concerned. The game tests your brainpower, your eyesight, your aim, your concentration, your nerve, the steadiness of your hand ... it has far more merit than its many scathers would ever wish to offer credit for. And it's so dramatic - so much can hinge or turn on the accuracy or otherwise of one single dart, and no game is ever truly over until the last dart hits its double. Players are always capable of pulling back a big deficit from a losing position - two years ago Martin Adams led Phill Nixon 6-0 in the final but ultimately only won it 7-6.
I would have loved to have seen Tony wander into the club next Saturday carrying the trophy. The reception he would have received would've been just ear-shattering. Still, he was as heroic as any winner and darts will be only the richer for it.