The autumnal call of the Emerald Isle is upon the darts season, with the partypoker.com World Grand Prix kicking off a host of TV tournaments that will be make or break for all the PDC’s ranks. Held at the iconic CityWest hotel in Dublin, this unique tournament has had the capacity to throw up some real surprises over the years since its inception in 1998. The first round draw has produced some spectacular looking matches, indeed, it is arguably the strongest field in the history of the PDC.
Opening Day: Stellar Matches
The opening day will see some stellar matches. Raymond van Barneveld’s ‘reward’ for ensuring he qualified for this tournament is a First Round date with Adrian Lewis. No doubt both players weren’t best pleased with drawing each other, but on the other hand, you have to beat the best to come through the field and whoever wins will be full of confidence going into the Second Round.
Elsewhere we have a tasty looking clash between the in-form Kim Huybrechts, who did hit one Nine-Darter (and almost hit another, in the same match) in Sunday’s floor event, and Benito van de Pas, the rising Dutch star who made the semi-finals that same day.
There is also a rematch of Michael Smith and Gerwyn Price. Price knocked Smith out of the World Matchplay in July, and Smith will have to be wary of Price who is an excellent player. The double-in format will be crucial here I feel, if Smith gets his doubling percentage right he should win the match, but he will need to be focused.
Another all Premier League affair on Day One will see Peter Wright facing Dave Chisnall. This match is a very difficult one to predict. If Chisnall is consistent on his doubles we know what he can do in this competition, as evidenced by reaching the final in 2013. Against Wright he will need to be getting off in legs strongly, and then kicking on with his natural scoring game. Wright’s consistent all round game means I can’t split these two, it will have to be who performs on the night that determines the winner.
Defending champion, Michael van Gerwen begins his defence against Keegan Brown, a match I expect the Green Machine to win. Keegan is a dangerous player, but Michael is riding high after his win in Innsbruck and will be very motivated in Dublin – the scene of his first darting major win holds special memories and he loves the venue.
Day Two: No Surprises Here (perhaps!)
Day Two sees Phil Taylor playing Vincent van der Voort. A decent draw for Taylor I feel, even though Vincent is an excellent player when confident, his profligacy on doubles at times means Taylor should be a comfortable winner.
Jamie Caven plays Ian White, and Caven, who only qualified at the expense of Joe Murnan in Sunday’s floor event, will be relishing the prospect of another appearance in a major. He has a tough task against Ian White, from who we know what to expect, but Caven should give him a few problems.
James Wade plays Mensur Suljovic in another World Matchplay repeat, and unfortunately for Mensur, I can’t see him giving Wade too much to think about. Wade is hitting Double 20 and Double 10 better than he ever has done for me, and Mensur will have to play out of his skin to win.
Gary Anderson plays the Highlander, John Henderson, who has had a very good year so far. Anderson went out first round of both floor events at the weekend, and whilst it is too early to say he’s struggling for form, he could do with having a good run in this tournament to get some confidence back.
Luck of the Irish?
What of the Irish chances in the event? Daryl Gurney has a more than winnable match against Robert Thornton. He is an outgoing person and will love the atmosphere. He’s sure to get an incredible reception from the Irish fans.
William O’Connor plays Jamie Lewis, and again, I think the support will give O’Connor, a relative unknown on TV, that boost to get over the line.
The History Maker, Brendan Dolan, has a very tough opener against Jelle Klaasen. Jelle won the floor event last Sunday and when confident is menacing. However, if Dolan can set the pace, and play the game we know he can, he can definitely win this match.
And the Winner Is…
As for an eventual winner of the event, it is very difficult these days to suggest who will win PDC majors. Looking at the draw Gary Anderson has the “easiest” route to the semi finals, but it is still fraught with danger. With the short format of the opening rounds I predict there will be more outsiders progress than ever.
If pushed, I would say Phil Taylor would be my pick to win, but only because of his record in Dublin. In all likelihood he would have to get past James Wade and Gary Anderson, but the Power, in this format, would be favourite to do so in both matches. However, as I say, predictions in the double-in format are virtually impossible and the quality of the players on show is second to none.
What we do know, is we will be treated to another roller-coaster week of tungsten trials and tribulations! The darting world would embrace a new winner of this tournament, and who knows, maybe we will see a new name on one of the oldest PDC major trophies.