After enjoying the best year of his darting career in 2016, Daryl Gurney has revealed that he’s targeting a Premier League spot in 2018. In an exclusive interview with Josh’s Dartistry, ‘Super-Chin’ discussed his Premier League aspirations, a dramatic World Championship campaign and his impressive return from injury last year.
Gurney has always possessed prodigious talent, but over the last two years the Northern Irishman has begun to display his potential on a more consistent basis, which has seen him climb to a career high of 21st on the PDC Order of Merit.
Gurney’s performances during the latter stages of 2016 saw many fans calling for him to be given a wildcard for the 2017 Premier League. Although he wasn’t selected, PDC Chairman Barry Hearn insisted that Daryl was seriously considered as a potential wildcard selection, and the 30-year-old took real pride from this acknowledgement.
“The comments Barry made have given me a lot of confidence going into the start of a new year. I never expected to be considered; it was a shock to me but I take pride in even being given a mention.
“It has also given me a push to do even better this year than last and maybe get a spot for the 2018 Premier League. I insist on bettering myself each year; upping my game, putting on a great show for the fans and doing the professional job I’m there to do,” he added.
Gurney’s best run in a PDC major to date came at the 2015 Players Championship Finals in Minehead, where he reached the last four before succumbing to Michael van Gerwen. ‘Super-Chin’ defeated then world champion Gary Anderson in round-two and this event proved to be the springboard for Gurney’s subsequent progress over the last 18 months.
The Derry ace reached his first PDC ranking final in January 2016, losing to Michael van Gerwen in the Dutch Darts Masters Final, but his season was derailed after he suffered a broken bone in his throwing hand in September.
Nevertheless, Gurney went from strength-to-strength after recovering from injury, and credits his mental fortitude as well as the support group around him for his mightily impressive return.
He admitted: “I think it was a mixture of a few things; belief, determination and confidence got me through it and concentrating on the game I know I am capable of. I also have a great team around me manager and sponsorship wise, as well as my family and friends.”
Gurney made his return on home soil, reaching the quarter-finals of the World Grand Prix. He also made the semi-finals in two separate Players Championship events before dumping out Michael van Gerwen en route to recording a quarter-final appearance at the German Darts Championship in October.
Until last weekend’s UK Open qualification triple-header in Wigan, Gurney was the last player to defeat Van Gerwen in an incredible run that spanned 33 matches, illustrating the quality and nerve that he possesses.
The world number twenty-one ended his season in style by enjoying a fine run to the World Championship quarter-finals. ‘Super-Chin’ defeated Jermaine Wattimena, Robert Thornton and Mark Webster en route to the last eight, before he was beaten by his old adversary MvG.
Gurney maintained that his quarter-final showing at Ally Pally ranks as the highlight of his darting career thus far, admitting: “My best moment would have to be getting to the quarter finals of the worlds. Previously I had never gone beyond the second round and it felt like an amazing achievement as it is the biggest tournament of the year.”
It was particularly poignant for the Derry ace after the disappointment of his second-round defeat twelve months ago. Gurney was beaten 4-1 by eventual champion Gary Anderson, but he had opportunities to establish a 2-0 advantage. The Northern Irishman claims that would have been the one match from his career that he’d love to replay.
Gurney insisted: “If I had the chance, it would be the 2016 World Championships; my second round game against Gary Anderson. He was defending his title, we were both throwing well and the atmosphere was great. I just wish I had hit more doubles and made the scoreline a lot closer.”
Whilst he was able to banish some demons this time around, it wasn’t all plain-sailing for ‘Super-Chin’ at Ally Pally. His last 16 clash against Mark Webster was one of the most tumultuous ties of the tournament, as Gurney became embroiled in the antics of the crowd despite boasting a commanding 3-1 advantage.
Webster capitalised on Daryl’s loss of focus to fight back and force a deciding set, before Gurney managed to regather his composure and close out victory. The Northern Irishman insists that it was ‘the most difficult position’ he’s ever been in throughout his career.
He told Josh’s Dartistry:“I learnt a lot from it in the sense that I shouldn’t have allowed myself to get involved with the crowd; it was my own fault. I allowed the crowd to be the third person in the game which should never have happened. In the future I will just be concentrating entirely on my own game.”
The 30-year-old was very satisfied with his form in 2016, but is hoping to improve his consistency over the next twelve months.“Overall I think it was a good year, I played in every televised tournament that’s accessible to me from where I am in the rankings. I really enjoyed it and I’m going to concentrate on being more consistent throughout the whole year.”
Interestingly, Gurney is one of the few players in the world’s top 32 that still holds down a full-time job. The Northern Irishman is a plumber by trade but maintains that he isn’t perturbed by juggling his work commitments with his darting career.
He admitted: “Personally, I have been doing it for around 10 years so its the norm for me. My routine consists of working during the day and practising at night, so this fits in nicely with my lifestyle. I am also very lucky that my boss gives me time off as and when I need it.”
Gurney, who reached the World Cup of Darts semi-final on his debut last year, is just £40,000 away from breaking into the world’s elite top 16. However, ‘Super-Chin’ is setting his sights even higher. “My aim is always to do better than the previous year, move further up the rankings, be more consistent and hopefully cement a Premier League spot.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC