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2-to-1 you'll LOVE it!
Matt, the @irishdartsfan
While most people's eyes were on the European Darts Open in Germany, mine were firmly glued to Dart Connect. The PDC Challenge Tour was also on at the weekend, in Milton Keynes, with 4 different events taking place over the 2 days. Thankfully, while Daryl Gurney was the only Irishman in action over in Germany, there were numerous of our lads competing in Milton Keynes. Here is my report and round-up of the weekend's action. Hope ye all enjoy!
2-to-1 you'll LOVE it!
(Left) Checkout %
(Right) 3-dart Average
I'll start off by talking about Nathan Rafferty's performance over the 4 Challenge Tour events this weekend. Most of you will have heard of 18 year old Nathan, from when he heroically beat Peter Wright 10-9 at the UK Open a couple of weeks ago. He failed to replicate that form this weekend, but he still showed glimpses in stages of the weekend.
Nathan Rafftery, 18
His best performance came Sunday morning in Challenge Tour 7, when he reached the Last 64, earning £50 in the process. Here's my analysis of his performance this weekend. Nathan's best average of the weekend was 85.1, in his brilliant 5-3 win over Peter Martin in Challenge Tour 6. He only averaged 71 in his 5-3 loss to Max Baulcomb, which was his worst of the weekend. His best performance on the doubles was 42% (5/12), also against Peter Martin, while his worst was 13% (1/8) in his 5-1 defeat to Dennis Smith. His overall 3 Dart average for the weekend was 78.7 while he hit 27.5% of his doubles in total. He won 28 legs against 31 lost, while he hit 6 180s over his 8 matches. As I previously said, Nathan earned £50 by reaching the Last 64 in Challenge Tour 7. Overall, it was a fairly disappointing weekend for Nathan. He couldn't replicate his form from the UK Open, but at only 18 years old, he has loads of time to improve his consistency. On the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, Nathan is in T-90th place with £200. In my opinion, this year is the time where Nathan can gain experience playing on the Challenge Tour and next year, he can kick on, and either earn a Tour Card or make some real gains on the Challenge Tour. Nathan has so much quality at such a young age, the question is: Can he fulfil his potential and become Ireland's leading light in darts? I certainly believe so!
The next man I will talk about is John O'Shea. This is probably the first time a lot of you will have heard of John. He is from Cork, on the south of Ireland, and his biggest success in darts was probably reaching the quarter finals of the BDO World Masters in 2016. John started the week with £50 on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, in a mere 142nd place. However, thanks to an amazing performance in Challenge Tour 8, where he reached the quarter finals, he has shot up the rankings. He produced some impressive numbers across the weekend. Here's my analysis of them. John's best 3 Dart Average was an incredible 98.9, which came in his 5-1 Last 16 win over Yordi Meeuwisse and he also threw another excellent 91 average in Challenge Tour 7, when beating Canadian Jeff Smith 5-2. His worst average was 73.1, which was still enough to help him beat Jason Delahunty 5-3. His best checkout % was 50%, which he hit in 3 games in a row, including in his 5-0 demolition of Dennis Nilsson. He failed to hit any of his 8 doubles in his 5-0 loss to Simon Preston in Challenge Tour 6. Over the whole weekend, John had a 3 Dart Average of an impressive 84.2, while he hit 36.5% of his doubles. He won 8 more legs than he lost, 38 to 30, while he hit 9 180s in 10 matches, an average of just less than 1 per match. His numbers seem to be up with the best of our lads this weekend. On the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, as I said, John started the weekend down in 142nd place with only £50. However, thanks to a Last 64 in Challenge Tour 7 and the brilliant run to the Last 8 in the last event, John earned £350 this weekend. This has pushed him way up the Order of Merit, into 49th place with £400 in total. If John can make a similar run the next time the Challenge Tour comes around, he can expect to bolt into the Top 32. A place in the Top 32 gives you a shot at qualifying for the European Tour, where serious money can be made. Maybe the Top 2, which earns you a Tour Card, is out of reach, but with more solid performances John can expect to rise up the Order of Merit again. Well played John!
Moving on now to Jason Cullen, who most of you will be familiar with. As I mentioned last week, Jason has been allowed to play in all the Players Championships so far, thanks to his position in the Challenge Tour Order of Merit. He was 5th coming into this week, mainly thanks to his brilliant win in Challenge Tour 4. It was a very important weekend for Jason as he tried to stay as high up the Order of Merit as he could, to give himself the chance to play more Pro Tour events, should others withdraw. Thankfully, Jason maintained a solid 6th place in the Order of Merit which, so far, would have guaranteed him a spot in every Players Championship event. Well played Jason! Jason's best average was 90.3, which came in his impressive 5-3 win over Frantisek Humpula in Challenge Tour 7. His worst average was 73.9, which was still enough to beat Glenn Gibson 5-2 on Sunday. His best performance on the doubles was 50% (4/8) in his 5-4 loss to Colin Osborne, while he only hit a disappointing 20% in his 5-2 loss to Rhys Griffin in his first game of the weekend. Overall, Jason had a 3 Dart Average of 82, which is down on what he has been throwing on the Pro Tour this year, but he did hit a decent 34.8% of doubles. He won 49 out of 82 legs and hit 16 180s in 11 matches. On the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, Jason has dropped 1 place to 6th, as I mentioned above. He earned £200 thanks to Last 64s in Challenge Tours 6&7 and a Last 32 in Challenge Tour 8. Jason's last game of the weekend came against Jarred Cole, which he lost 5-4 after recovering from 4-0 down. Had he won the match, Jason would have jumped to 4th, ahead of Martin Atkins and he would have remained in front of Jarred Cole. However, it was not to be and Jason remains 6th. After a poor Saturday, Jason recovered things on Sunday with some excellent performances. With his European Tour debut not far away, things are looking up for Jason Cullen. Keith O'Neill and Sheamus Hagan were the other Irish players in action at the weekend. They both had disappointing weekends as both failed to win a single game.
Keith O'Neill is still yet to cash on the Challenge Tour this year, while Sheamus Hagan has only collected £50 and is lying in 193rd place. Unfortunately, it seems as though these two are not producing consistent enough performances to earn much money this year, but we can still expect more in the future. Here's my analysis of their performances this weekend. Keith's best average was 80.7 which came in his 5-4 loss to Adam Mould, while his worst was 67.6 in his 5-0 defeat to Brett Claydon. Sheamus had an average of 77.7 in his 5-2 defeat to Anthony Urmston-Toft but his worst average of 66.3 came in his 5-0 loss against Radoslaw Szaganski.
Sheamus's best performance on the doubles was 33% (2/6) against Urmston-Toft while he failed to hit any against Szaganski. Keith hit 33% of his doubles in his 5-3 loss to Kelvin Hart but he also failed to hit any, him against Brett Claydon. Over the whole weekend, Keith averaged 76 to Sheamus' 72.7, and Sheamus hit 23% of his doubles against Keith's 27%. Keith hit an impressive 6 180s in his 4 matches but Sheamus failed to hit any. It was a disappointing weekend for these two but I have no doubt both of them will bounce back next time.
'Player of the Week'
Just a quick word on the PDC Order of Merit, the lads retain their position: Brendan is 36th, Willie 55th, Steve 59th and Mick 65th. On the Pro Tour, Steve remains 46th, Brendan 53rd and Willie climbs one to 57th (because Kirk Shepherd lost £500). However, Mick has dropped 8 places to 84th, after he lost £2000 that he earned last year. Steve and Willie are in action next week in European Tour 2, also in Germany, while the other lads take a well earned break. Finally, I want to name my Player of the Week. This time, I'll give it to John O'Shea. John reached a brilliant Quarter Finals in Challenge Tour 8 which rose him almost 100 places in the Order of Merit, up to 49th. If he can replicate that form consistently, we will hear a lot more of John O'Shea in times to come. Well played John! Thanks everyone who's still here! I hope you enjoyed my round up of Irish Darts at the weekend. I will be here on High Roller Radio every week with my report.
Thanks again! Matt.