Joe Cullen was unable to hold back the tears after securing the first televised title of his career with a brilliant 11-9 win over Dave Chisnall in Sunday’s Ladbrokes Masters final.
Cullen has claimed seven PDC ranking titles since making his breakthrough in 2017, but he added a maiden televised crown to his growing haul on an emotional evening in Milton Keynes.
It was a groundbreaking weekend for ‘The Rockstar’, who defeated some of the sport’s biggest names en route to his landmark triumph at the Marshall Arena.
Having dumped out Daryl Gurney in his opener, the 32-year-old delivered a swashbuckling display to demolish Gary Anderson 10-1 in round two, averaging 106.3 in the process.
He claimed another major scalp in his quarter-final clash against five-time winner Michael van Gerwen, rallying from 3-1 adrift to register his first televised success against ‘The Green Machine’.
His reward was a semi-final tussle against former Grand Slam champion Jose De Sousa, and Cullen delivered another classy display to dump out ‘The Special One’, averaging 101.62 to complete an 11-8 success.
This set up an intriguing showpiece against Chisnall, where he fended off a spirited fightback from the six-time major finalist to fulfill his darting destiny, averaging 96.89, landing seven 180s and hitting 41% of his attempts at double.
Cullen’s win comes just three months after his mother passed away, and he was overcome by emotion as he celebrated his success with his father in heartwarming scenes on stage.
The Bradford-born star was the superior player in the opening exchanges, yet despite the disparity in the averages, the opening five legs went with throw, with Cullen averaging 97 to Chisnall’s 83.
Cullen produced a classy 117 finish for a 12-dart hold in leg five, and that sparked a sequence of three straight legs, featuring 13 and 12 dart legs, but Chisnall responded – reeling off three legs of his own to restore parity at five apiece.
‘The Rockstar’ regained the momentum after the interval, with a clinical 84 kill on the bull sandwiched in between 14-dart holds as he established a commanding 8-5 cushion, but Chisnall responded, closing out a 13-dart hold to reduce the deficit.
Cullen sank a crucial dart at double three to restore his three-leg buffer, and although Chisnall continued to battle valiantly, the 32-year-old conjured up a majestic 126 checkout via double six to move one leg away from a historic triumph.
Cullen appeared poised to complete a convincing victory, but we were treated to an extraordinary finale, after the world No 11 frittered away TEN match darts across two legs, allowing Chisnall to preserve his hopes of landing an elusive first major.
The St Helen’s star had the advantage of throw to force a 21st and deciding leg, but Cullen wasn’t to be denied, following up a magnificent 145 set-up shot by pinning double 18 to scoop the £60,000 winner’s cheque.
For Chisnall, he was left to reflect on another agonising defeat in a televised final. Having succumbed to Martin Adams in the 2010 BDO World Championship final, ‘Chizzy’ has also featured in five major PDC finals, losing out to the formidable duo of Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen in those respective tussles.
The 41-year-old boasts 15 PDC ranking titles on his résumé, and his clash against Cullen represented arguably his best opportunity to break his major duck, yet he was unable to produce his trademark scoring power, losing out with a modest 90.23 average.
Fresh from comprehensive wins over Stephen Bunting and James Wade earlier in the event, Chisnall edged out his St Helen’s compatriot Michael Smith in the afternoon’s opening quarter-final.
The pair fired in seven maximums apiece, yet while ‘Bully Boy’ boasted the higher average, Chisnall’s clinical combination finishing was the decisive factor, as he converted 105, 124, 153 and 125 checkouts to deny the World Championship runner-up.
This set up a fascinating last four showdown against reigning champion Jonny Clayton, who recovered from 4-1 down to defeat his World Cup partner and world No 1 Gerwyn Price in a high-quality affair.
‘The Ferret’ averaged 104.19 and converted 67% of his attempts at double to account for ‘The Iceman’, but he was unable to replicate that performance against Chisnall.
The pair were locked at five apiece at the second interval, only for Chizzy to steal a march midway through proceedings, winning six of the next seven legs to seal the deal with a 97.45 average, five 180s and two ton-plus checkouts.
Image Credit: Taka Wu/PDC
2022 Ladbrokes Masters
Sunday January 30
Dave Chisnall 10-8 Michael Smith
Jonny Clayton 10-8 Gerwyn Price
Jose de Sousa 10-9 Simon Whitlock
Joe Cullen 10-7 Michael van Gerwen
Dave Chisnall 11-7 Jonny Clayton
Joe Cullen 11-8 Jose de Sousa
Joe Cullen 11-9 Dave Chisnall