I'll start off in Germany, where Steve and Willie were both playing in their second European Tour of the year. Steve impressed again this weekend, where another unfortunate tough draw caught him out. In Round 1, the Last 48, Steve was simply too good for Robert Thornton, trashing him 6-0. Steve averaged 97 in that match, hit 38% of his doubles and took out 167 on the bull to finish off the game.
Steve Lennon Trounces Robert Thornton
Steve came up against Michael Smith in the Last 32, but came up just short. Having gone 4-1 down early on, Steve fought back to 4-4, including checkouts of 116 and 130. Unfortunately, Smith pulled off two more legs to see off Steve, but once again there are plenty of positives. Steve hit 67% on doubles (4/6) and threw a 92.8 3 dart average. Another £2000 in the bank and another solid weekend's work. For the two matches, Steve had an overall average of 94.4, hit 45% of his doubles and hit a 180. Steve has jumped another place on the PDC Order of Merit, moving to 54th ahead of Corey Cadby. Remember it is only his second year on the circuit so he is not losing any money. On the Pro Tour Order of Merit, he has moved up to 44th. If he can remain there in December, he will be packing bags for the Ally Pally! Overall, Steve impressed yet again. He is coming through his first round games with ease at the moment and it is only a matter of time before he makes a major run in one of these tournaments. Having said that, Steve will be aware that it will need to happen sooner or later if he wants to make up the £5000 or so he needs for the World Matchplay in the summer. However, I have full faith in Steve and the way he is playing, could well be a Top 32 star soon!
Willie O'Connor now and once again, Willie failed to get through his Round 1 game. It happened in European Tour 2 when he went out to Luke Humphries and it happened once again last Friday at the German Darts Open. He took on Dimitri van den Bergh in the Last 48 and, despite recovering from 3-0 to 3-3, Willie could not win another leg. Van den Bergh was excellent, but a fully functioning Willie O'Connor could have easily matched him. A case of what might have been... Against van den Bergh, Willie had a decent 3 dart average of 90.8, a few points down on his opponent. He also hit 50% of his doubles so it begs the question 'What went wrong?' Well, what happened was Dimitri van den Bergh went right! An average of 98, 55% on doubles, 2 180s and a 140 checkout to win the match, very impressive. So far, Willie has had poor draws, in @dartistik's stats based rankings for the German Darts Open, Willie ranked 14th for his one match against van den Bergh, compared to Steve who was a few places back in 23rd. It proves Willie has played well, he has just been unlucky with the draws. On the PDC Order of Merit, Willie remains 56th. He is now the 2nd ranked player from the Republic of Ireland, with Steve up to 54th now. And after picking up a grand this weekend, Willie is up to 53rd on the Pro Tour from 60th, just proving how congested the players are down there. The stats show Willie played well this weekend. Unfortunately, he is not qualified for any of the next 3 European Tours, but hopefully, he can bring this form to the Players Championship events and we'll start to see more quarter finals, like the one he got a few weeks back!
Development Tour Four (#DT4)
While Steve and Willie were playing abroad in huge arenas, it was a lot less glamorous for the darts stars of the future, with the PDC Development Tour having begun this Saturday. It was a hectic couple of days, with 4 events with 230+ players each to be squeezed into 2 days of action. Thankfully, everything ran smoothly (except Dart Connect for Development Tour 4) and there were some incredible moments from the young Irish stars (aged 16-23).
Nathan Rafferty, famous for reaching the Last 32 of the UK Open and beating Peter Wright along the way, reigned supreme in Development Tour 4 on Saturday. We saw Dean Finn reach a semi final, Jordan Boyce reach a Last 8 and Stephen Rosney played consistently well. Here's my rundown of the weekends action on the Development Tour. It seems only right to start with Nathan Rafferty, the second Irish player to win in 2 weeks (after Mickey Mansell). He triumphed in Development Tour 1 with some truly tremendous performances. His Round 1 game was excellent, a ding-dong battle with Carl Batchelor that Nathan came through 4-3. He eased into the Last 16, throwing a 102 average in the process, where he defeated Brian Raman 4-3 to make the quarters. A 99 average followed by a 5-2 win in the semi final gave him his chance which he duly took, beating Canadian Tour Card holder Dawson Murschell 5-3, hitting 3 180s. An incredible run from an incredible player. Amazing stuff! While he failed to replicate this form for the rest of the weekend (his Last 16 in event 3 also quality),
Nathan Rafferty signs with Target Darts!
Nathan's win has secured him 3rd on the Development Tour Order of Merit. With the person who tops the rankings going to the Ally Pally in December, could this be an amazing opportunity for Nathan. Having recently signed for Target Darts, and with great mentors, Nathan 'The Natural' seems destined to have a big career ahead of him.
3-Dart Averages #DT1 Checkout Percentages #DT1
Dean Finn could argue he was the next best of the Irish, and with good reason too! A 4-0 loss in Round 1 of event 1, followed by a top class run to the semi finals in event 2 the same day shows his character. Winning 6 games on the way, Dean came up against regular Pro Tour player Bradley Brooks in the semi finals. Dean ran him all the way, before painfully going out 5-4. Under the guidance of Gerry Kennedy of Shamrock Darts Management (Steve Lennon's managements team), Dean has a great team behind him and if he can show his form consistently, we will hear a lot more of Dean Finn!
Stephen Rosney also impressed this weekend, his consistency showing. Cashing in each event except the first one proves this. His highlight of the weekend was probably the 2 Last 32s on Sunday, where he lost 4-2 to Jordan Boyce in event 4. His 3 dart average of 78.1 was impressive and I just can't wait to see how he improves!
Jordan Boyce was another young talent who caught my eye this weekend, a couple of major runs putting him 18th on the Order of Merit. An excellent run to the quarter finals of event 2 (highlight defeating Mark Baxter 4-3 with a 94 average) earned him £300, while another run to the Last 16 in event 4 proved it was no fluke (we knew that anyway!) The 2nd highest Irishman on the Order of Merit, this year has plenty in store for 18 year old Jordan!
Shane McGuirk was another Irishman to impress in Wigan this weekend. His run to the Last 16 in event 2 was his highlight, a couple of 4-0 wins along the way, including against fellow countryman Andrew Ryan, before going out to Dean Finn. While Shane failed to cash on Sunday, he was very unlucky, playing well in both events before going out 4-both times. A 76.6 3 dart average is very good for the weekend, a lot more to come from Shane!
Liam Gallagher is the 6th Irish darts player inside the Top 64 of the Development Tour Order of Merit, a very promising stat for the future, with hopefully a lot of them going to Q School next year. Liam's consistency was impressive, cashing in 3 of the 4 events, earning £150, and averaging 72.8 for the weekend. Liam has laid the boundaries, he's only going to grow on this year's Development Tour.
James O'Toole's results this weekend unfortunately did not replicate his averages and checkout %, he deserved much more. A 3 dart average of 75 and 31% on the doubles sounds excellent, and it is, but he could only earn £50. He even averaged 84 in one match! A bit better luck on the draws and James will be enjoying similar success to the other players.
Andrew Ryan also couldn't quite get any results in his favour, failing to cash this weekend. His 74.3 average is above the average for the weekend, but like James before him, he didn't get the luck of the draw. His stats are promising and they will only improve as the year goes on!
Tadhg Carroll and Cian Fitzpatrick were the final Irish youngsters in action. Unfortunately, neither cashed but there were signs for encouragement. Tadhg had bad draws regularly, Jimmy Hendriks and Brian Raman not ideal for opening round games! Cian struggled to adapt this weekend, but with plenty of experience gained, expect to see him better and stronger next time.
'Player of the Week'
Finally, it's Player of the Week time. This wasn't easy as Steve Lennon impressed, as did Jordan Boyce, Dean Finn and Stephen Rosney but the obvious choice is Nathan Rafferty. Winning Development Tour 1 on Saturday afternoon has set him up perfectly for what should be a great year on the circuit, and proves he has a great chance to top the Development Tour Order of Merit. His 86.8 3 dart average for the weekend is Pro Tour standard, as is his 40% on doubles and 15 180s. How far can he go? The sky's the limit!
Reporter's Note: I hope you enjoyed the report this week. There were a lot of topics to cover so I did my best to give everything a fair share. By the way, I have a lot more stats on each player, I couldn't fit them all in unfortunately, just message me if you're interested. Any queries, find me on Twitter @irishdartsfan, but for now...
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