The well-established darts franchise now staging its annual event in Walsh road is one of the most popular and anticipated events in the calender. Here is the report on the 2003 event, held on January 25th.
"A record field of 22 competitors converged on the arena for the Darts 2003 event. Reigning champ Denis "the field marshall" Reilly was hotly fancied to storm to the title by many however some were pointing to a rejuvenated "Super Robot" to return to halt his march. However the massive field threw up a host of legendary darting performances."
VON RYAN EXPRESS DERAILLED BY FLYING SCOTSMAN
Gregor Hall 2 - 0 Pat Ryan
Gregor Hall, a stablemate of Sean "twodarts" Laphen was "derided by association" due to their curious practice sessions with the board mounted two foot off the ground, squared up to durable and experienced competitor Pa Ryan. Hall took to Darts 2003 like a duck to water and managed to pick off his doubles after some good scores in both legs with Ryan floundering. Back to the drawing board for Ryan who had the ignomious honour of being first man out.
TWO LEGS OF AGONY FOR HANRATTY
Sean Laphen 2 - 0 Brendan Hanratty
Twodarts Laphen, by now one of the major attractions on the circuit inflicted an agonising defeat on his former sidekick Brendan Hanratty. Hanratty played solid darts, but crucially failed to find the doubles. Home advantage was no advantage to Hanratty as Laphen took the first on a shootout. In the second leg, the Louth man had all the time in the world to check out, but the leg ground out turgidly to another shootout, which Laphen won again. Agony for Hanratty who will have to endure months, even years of gloating from Laphen.
SMILER ELLIS BRUSHES PAST DELANEY
Mark Ellis 2 - 0 Conor Delaney
Two debutantes in Darts 2003 led to an intruiging encounter. While Delaney struggled to settle in the first leg, the popular Australian stormed ahead with some fine scores and grabbed the first. Delaney managed to stay in touch in the second, but "Smiley" afforded him little chance to get to finish, with a swift checkout of his own. An ominous display from the Aussie.
MINISTER ENDS EURO-AMERICAN RELATIONS
Gary Corcoran 2 - 0 Chris Plockelman
Popular yank Plockelman struggled to get to grips with the pace of Darts 2003 and was punished by the experienced Minister, in his record seventh tournament. While "Topher" closed down Corcoran's lead in the first, the Minister had all the time in the world to finish, and eventually did. In the second leg, Chris stayed in touch, but the Minister went up a gear at the death with a neat finish. Afterwards, Plockelman admitted he had work to do if he were to make an impression in the future.
SPACEMAN SPAYS CAT'S PRODIGY
Dave Doheny 2 - 0 Colm Reilly
Much pre-event focus had been on Colm Reilly, brother of the reigning King of Darts and his tutorage under Darts legend Johnny "The Cat" Heaney. In retrospect, it can be confirmed that the use of John the Cat as a mentor was an abject failure. Reilly was unable to finish off the match against a dogged Dave Doheny challenge. Doheny stormed ahead in the first and while slowing on the double allowed Reilly to come close and eventually checked out. In the second leg, Doheny's experience showed as he clinched the tie on a shootout.
NO BAD NEWS FOR MARSHALL
Denis Reilly 2 - 0 Barney Johnson
In the tie of the round, Bad News Johnson faced up against King of Darts and title favourite Denis Reilly. Word from the camp was that Johnson was in form but that the Field Marshall was in "tremendous" form. Johnson managed to stay ahead of Reilly in the first leg, but when check out time came, the ultra clinical Reilly checked out with the minimum of fuss. It was neck and neck in the second leg, however Reilly confirmed the formbook by storming ahead and checking out on tops. A devastating blow for Johnson, however a chilling display for all to see by Reilly.
HIGH PRIEST EXCOMMUNICATED BY CAT
John Heaney 2 - 1 Conor Guinan
Between these two men, they had been out of the game for ten years, and it showed in a truly awful encounter. In an early kick off, low scores and poor throwing were the order of the day. After an age, Guinan took the first on a checkout. The second leg went all the way, with the experienced High Priest spurning numerous oppurtunities to claim a massive scalp. It was the Cat this time who clinched the shootout by a whisker (ho ho). Remarkably, the final leg was an excellent affair with some great scoring, particularly by the Cat. With Guinan struggling to keep up, the Cat snatched a great check out, and extended his five year unbeaten run.
CONROY SLAYS RUSSIAN GIANT
Barry Conroy 2 - 1 Sergeui Semikhatov
In this eagerly awaited clash between the two business associates, Semikhatov was aiming to improve on his promising 2002 display and also avoid a year of savage taunting from Conroy. The players were slow to get going but the giant Russian stormed ahead and was set to check out when Conroy came from behind with some fine scores and a good checkout. In the second leg, Semikhatov dominated and checked out well under pressure. However the agony of taunting is probably still ringing in Semikhatov's ears, as Conroy had it all his way in the decisive leg, checking out with the Russian floundering on 171. A great match and Conroy's best display in years.
TWO DARTS GROUNDED BY SCOT
Gregor Hall 2 - 0 Sean Laphen
Sean "Two Darts" Laphen failed at the second hurdle for the second year in a row against his stable mate Gregor Hall who was marking out a name for himself in the event. The canny Scot stormed ahead with some massive scores while Laphen was left flapping. Though Hall took his time checking out, the first leg was never in doubt. While "Two Darts" was more competitive in the second, he was still unable to match Hall's blistering pace. Hours of banter material for Two Darts after, while the quarter finals beckoned for Hall.
MINISTER DISHES OUT MORE PUNISHMENT TO DRUID
Gary Corcoran 2 - 0 James Henry
Having clashed twice before in tournament history, this was a keenly awaited clash between the tournament's longest serving men. It was a dream for some, for James Henry, a nightmare, as he never got out of the blocks for the match. The first leg was nip and tuck and as Henry was reaching the line, The Minister moved in front with a 111 and a good checkout. The second leg saw good scores from both men, but Corcoran battered home with a fine checkout. More progress for the Minister but the good times still roll on for the Druid.
ROBOT HAS LAST SMILE
Neil Corcoran 2 - 0 Mark Ellis
Neil "Super Robot" Corcoran had to call on all his experience in this tight match against gritty Aussie Mark "Smiley" Ellis. The first leg started slowly only for Ellis to up the tempo with a series of massive scores. Suddenly Corcoran lashed back from 150 down to snatch the first leg with some economical checking out. In the second, Ellis again kept up the high scores but with the scores neck and neck, Super Robot lept up a gear to check out over the line.
MAD DOG IS BACK
Colm O'Donnell 2 - 0 John Looby
Colm O'Donnell returned to the darts scene with a solid victory over promising newcomer John Looby. Mad dog missed 2002 and was delighted to be back for the 2003 event. Looby was keen to perform well and scored strongly like O'Donnell, without either hitting massive scores. O'Donnell checked out excellently on tops in the first. In the second, Mad dog upped the tempo with some good scores and checked out well despite Looby's best efforts.
WOLF MAULS SPACEMAN
Declan O'Regan 2 - 0 Dave Doheny
Newcomer Declan "The Wolf" O'Regan entered as an unknown and faced a tricky tie against the talented Dave Doheny. The match itself was an awful affair, as despite some solid scores, the first leg drudged out for an eternity with both men failing on the doubles, until the wolf hit a double one. The second leg was equally shocking, with both men stuck in a check out timewarp before a shootout. However it was the wolf who held his nerve and pipped the hapless Spaceman to advance.
MALABAR TAUGHT TABLE MANNERS BY MARSHALL
Denis Reilly 2 - 0 Ciaran Bryan
In a hotly awaited rematch of the 2002 final the King of Darts, the Marshall squared up against Malabar Byran, the collossus who had driven from Galway for the event. While the Marshall continued his steely form, Bryan let himself down and failed to get to grips with his opponent. The first leg saw the Marshall consistently score well and take a fine double 12 with Malabar lumbering over a 111. The second leg saw Bryan storm ahead and looked good to tie the match, but Reilly's brilliant finishing denied him, taking it with a good double 16. "I just couldn't compete with him," Bryan announced after.
DOG BITES ROBOT
Colm O'Donnell 2 - 1 Neil Corcoran
It was time for the serious stuff to start. Corcoran beat O'Donnell en route to his 2001 title and was arguably his trickiest opponent. While Super Robot was regarded as a live contender, Mad Dog was seen as too much of a "loose cannon" to mount a credible title challenge. His critics were to eat their words in a pulsating clash. Mad Dog romped ahead in the first leg and was ahead by over one hundred looking for a checkout when he was pipped by a trademark Super Robot finish. The second proved a slower affair, with Mad dog staying just ahead and taking a double one just as the Robot eyed victory. The stars were neck and neck in the third when O'Donnell took a couple of good scores to eye up a finish. Super Robot rushed back but Mad dog finally got the double five he needed.
CAT AND MINISTER SERVE UP STINKER
John Heaney 2 - 0 Gary Corcoran
In contrast with the fine fare on offer in the previous match, these two experienced men served up a shocker. The first leg started well with both men hitting decent scores without setting the world alight. When it came to checking out time, the game ground to a standstill. The Cat eventually took the first on a double one. The second leg put on show some of the most dreadful play seen in years. The Cat hit rock bottom and the Minister eventually posted some scores to approach the line in front. However, the 98 King of Darts had all the time he wanted to get back as the Minister wasted chance after chance and the Cat progressed with a fine double 10. Heaney admitted afterwards he remembered "very little about the match".
GREG HALLS' ON FIRE
Gregor Hall 2 - 0 Barry Conroy Gregor Hall was fancied to do well in this one with his strong form throughout. This match brought more life to the arena and Hall went ahead with a good 88 setting himself up to checkout before the fumbling Conroy got any chances. Conroy, keen to avoid barracking from his rivals tried hard to get back, but the second leg was more of the same. Hall impressed again with solid scores and the canny Scot checked out on double 16 to grab an impressive semi final spot.
MARSHALL VICTORY IN BAR WARS
Denis Reilly 2 - 0 Declan O'Regan
The wolf aimed to take another scalp here but the Marshall these days is a class above most of the pack. But it was O'Regan that shot some mighty scores and was 230 ahead with the Marshall floundering. O'Regan's checking out however hadn't improved and Marshall slowly ate away at the deficit to eventually check out after a long stalemate. The second leg was a far better affair with both men posting good scores, but it was the Marshall that called last orders with a swift double 13.
VIBE FOR DOGGO
Colm O'Donnell 2 - 1 Gregor Hall
An intruiging semi final clash saw two of the two whose play had lit up the event. Hall had brushed his opponents aside with ease while O'Donnell had lit the touchpaper for some explosive play. The first leg saw the two men chip away at their score and when it came to checking out, O'Donnell wasted no time in hitting a good double tops. The popular Scot did his best to keep one step ahead of O'Donnell, but on this form, one simply could not give Mad dog any oppurtunity, and O'Donnell wrapped up the tie with a brilliant 49 check out.
MARSHALL AND CAT IN AMAZING SCENES
Denis Reilly 2 - 0 John Heaney
This match was overshadowed my some amazing scenes prior to the "bull up" as a wan looking Heaney announced he wished to retire from the event. Looking pale and propped up against a wall, he announced he would not be continuing, however he was persuaded to play on by the magnaminous Marshall. The Cat went on to play some reasonable darts, asking some questions of Reilly. Reilly started slowly, but passed out the Cat who was stuck in the 200s for an age. Checking out on a tricky three, he went on to stumble about in the second leg. The Cat however was not well focussed and failed to punish the Field Marshall. Reilly went on to take the match on a double one. After the event, the Cat claimed he had no recollection whatsoever of playing this match. This has been hailed as genius mind games by a number of commentators
CANINE GLORY AS O'DONNELL CROWNED KING OF DARTS
Colm O'Donnell 3 - 1 Denis Reilly
Colm "Mad Dog" O'Donnell completed arguably the greatest ever performance in Darts history with a blistering display in the final against Denis "the Field Marshall" Reilly - two men with strong connections to the great Louth team of 1957. The Marshall, who himself turned in a brilliant performance reaching back to back finals played his part in a superb final. Given Reilly's ease of progression compared to the rest of the field gives some idea as to the stratospheric play which O'Donnell put on show. The first leg was probably the most impressive. O'Donnell, who had to be woken up and assisted into the arena was unrelenting, blitzing home his scores and checking out with ease while the Marshall lumbered about in the high 200s. Reilly drew level in the second. This time Reilly kept on a par and moved ahead towards the end to hit a nice double 7. The pace of the match slowed down in the third. The men scrapped it out throw for throw, and while Reilly matched his opponent most of the way it was when approaching the checkout time that O'Donnell showed his class with a good double 7. The title was O'Donnell's in the fourth. With the pressure on Denis to draw level, Mad Dog went on the offensive. The former Trimleston man kicked ahead towards the line, and checked out on tops. No disgrace for Reilly, and the new King of Darts O'Donnell was congratulated by his jubilant fans.
A great champion winning a great final was a fitting end for a great tournament