So the annual PDC jaunt to the Emerald Isle is over for another year and it’s another year where both the expected and the unexpected happened. And we expected both.

By this I mean we always expect the unexpected at this tournament, but we also expect Phil Taylor to win. And we weren’t disappointed on either count. Some things never change and the continued domination of the greatest player we will ever see continues unabated. He had to work for it at times – games against Barneveld will never be a push over and the tussles with Priestley and Jenkins seemed to take a bit out of The Power. But normal service resumed and a 14th World title looks ominously likely. But we talk about this guy probably a little too much so let’s dish out the congratulations again and move on to some of the less expected events of the week.

By the end of round 1 we had Lloyd out, Part out, Painter out, Mason out, Walsh out, Dudbridge out. All shocks of varying degrees. Walsh, Dudbridge, Painter are perhaps a punters dream at the moment – going the wrong way and up against hungry qualifiers. Has Painter over-achieved in recent years? Has Dudbridge found a comfort zone he needs to wake up from? Has Walsh started with the yips? Less expected was Bob Anderson’s fine win over Jaws and a rejuvenated Manley rolling out the one dart starts and finishes to totally demoralise an eternally disappointing Mason. The beneficiaries, Anderson & Manley aside, weren’t likely to progress much further but were cock-a-hoop at their luck of the draw and still being involved in the middle of the week. Anto McCracken had the whole of Dublin on his side but wayward throwing and over-exuberance was never going to trouble Bob Anderson in round 2. Andy Callaby and Steve Beaton found Terry Jenkins and Roland Scholten to hot for them and so retired to the bar.

Much of the rest of round 1 went pretty much to form or the form book. It could have been very different – Barney struggled to overcome Warriner-with-a-dodgy-knee-Little who failed to capitalise on some golden chances to take a massive scalp. Wes Newton will be another cursing missed double at the wrong time to not put more pressure on an under par Taylor. Andy Jenkins missed doubles for the match against his namesake – could it have been Andy and not Terry in the final? The width of a wire means we’ll never know. The Jenkins match was probably the best of the first round with a high standard to match the drama. Credit should also be given to Mardle, Baxter, Lewis & Priestley for straight forward wins in potential banana skins, gained by throwing of the highest standard.

By round 2 we’re at it again – Mardle gone, Baxter gone, Barney gone. McCracken, Callaby, Beaton all fell at the second hurdle but in slightly more expected fashion. Crackers between Taylor & Barney and Priestley & Lewis showed us why we love darts. Manley, Scholten & Wade ploughed on and the draw was really taking shape.

The quarters already?! Manley eats the Pie Man for breakfast, Priestley puts the young upstart Wade in his place, Taylor humbles Tripod and this Terry Jenkins fella suddenly finds himself in the semis. Told you to expect the unexpected.

In the semis Priestley doesn’t have time to wonder why he’s always in the same half as Taylor and goes on to give The Power a real fright. Both looked shattered after the game but it’s another classic, another final for Taylor and another massive step towards the top for Priestley. Can he win a major title again before retirement? World Champion again? Sometimes the luck of the draw is needed and that’s exactly what Jenkins will be thinking – his side of the draw opened up with the shocks earlier in the week and although Manley has been doing much better of late, and had played well all week, the recent form book said Jenkins. I wonder how many people put their money with the form book though – not many I’d guess and how they will have been kicking themselves as Jenkins motored through to the final. For Manley he can take comfort from the fact that in the last few weeks he’s done just enough to book a Premier League place – a far cry from Mardle & Baxter who will have to watch on Sky with the rest of us next year. But that’s another story.

So to the final – surely a doddle for Taylor? Turn up and collect the cheque? Odds of 1-25 would suggest so and the bookies are rarely wrong, but it could have been so much different if yet again the underdog had taken his chances. Failing to get away for 10 darts at the start it looked as though Jenkins would never get going and we’d be in bed early. Once the ignition was started though it was vintage Taylor…but from Jenkins! Steamrollering into a commanding lead only to miss chances to surge ahead and be pegged back. The rest of the game followed a familiar recent pattern – Taylor struggling to find top form, doubles and trebles missed by wide margins and Jenkins failing to capitalise. We’ve seen it all year but it the end that’s what sets Taylor apart. The killer instinct, the ability to dig in and battle and the knack of being to do enough to win. Liverpool had it in the 80’s, Man United and Chelsea now, Roger Federrer has it, Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher. Add Phil Taylor to the list. None have won more than him though and I doubt anybody ever will.

So there you have it. We expected the unexpected and got it. The only constant running through the week was, as ever, a certain Phil The Power Taylor.

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DUBLIN DELIBERATIONS

Sky Sports’ John Gwynne reflects on the Skybet World Grand Prix, held in Dublin in October…

So, there’s nothing new – Phil Taylor reigns and he reigns supreme! Certainly, the manner in which ‘The Power’ won his seventh Grand Prix title suggests that, double-in in Dublin (or anywhere else, for that matter) suits him fine. His second round match with Barney was the highlight, for many, of the week. It would have been for me if Raymond Barneveld had been able to take the match into a deciding fifth set and then, who knows…? One could not help but admire the Dutchman’s 120 checkout which won him the third set, though, and kept him in the tie.

The most amazing thing, for me, was the way in which Terry Jenkins made it into the Premier League early next year not only by reaching the final in Dublin but also by watching as rivals faltered along the way, one by one. Andy Jenkins, beaten by his namesake in the opening round, Wayne Mardle, Ronnie Baxter and Adrian Lewis all queued up ahead of the Herefordshire man but all went out earlier than they could afford.
“I’ve been very lucky, the way things have worked out”, Terry Jenkins told me before his final bout with Taylor. I knew what he meant. Even so, he still had to reach the final himself – and that’s what he did. He showed great resilience in the final. The 7-4 scoreline is one from which both players can take great credit. Taylor came from two sets down, while Jenkins wouldn’t lie down when he trailed 4-2.

I was pleased with the continued good form of Dennis Priestley. I do believe that, if he had not made a bit of a mess of the 55 required to make it 4-4 against Phil Taylor in the semi-final, ‘The Menace’ might have gone on to beat his old adversary. His first dart went in single ten, so leaving him with only one dart at tops instead of two. Having Dennis in the Premier League will give the event, bustling, busy and boisterous, a degree of balm that it needs!

Alan Warriner-Little, although a first round loser, demonstrated that he may well be on his way back. He lost to Phil Taylor, of course, but, in my view, gave his most encouraging display for some time. The sport will be all the better for a revitalised ‘Wazza’ as much as it has been for a resurgent Priestley.

Priestley, 56, took care of two men barely out of short trousers, Adrian Lewis and James Wade. His win against Lewis, a wonderfully talented player, effected some revenge for defeat in the world championship and in the World Series of Darts, while his defeat of James Wade, who might claim the title of best left-hander in the game, was clinical. Wade, also a gifted performer but not as free-flowing as Lewis, will have to learn to cope with the likes of Dennis Priestley. He was clearly unhappy with the game’s petty pace!

To finish where I started, though, it’s one man who still reigns and reigns supreme …now, what’s his name?!!!

Sky Bet World Grand Prix Match Reviews

Day 3 – Round 2
Wayne Mardle 0-3 Andy Smith

Smith did what Mardle would have feared and turned it on when it mattered. This wasn’t the greatest standard but you do what you have to do and Mardle got whitewashed by the Pieman. Smith is the right half of the draw and can go a long way with the confidence he will gain from this.

Andy Callaby 2-3 Terry Jenkins

Jenkins edged out qualifier Callaby for another narrow win. Callaby complained of feeling under the weather but Jenkins still had to do the business and will be delighted to reach the quarters after a great couple of months. The Premier League is now almost a certainty and who would have thought that two months ago? Not me for one.

Bob Anderson 3-1 Anto McCracken

No surprise here to be fair as it never looked like the form of McCracken would take him any further. Anderson rolls on and is a dangerous opponent for anybody. It’s in form Terry Jenkins up next but Anderson is capable of going on from here.

Peter Manley 3-1 Lionel Sams

Manley cruises through again and Sams misses his opportunity. Manley is showing his true colours this week after an awful year so far. He needs points here this week to be in with a shout of the Premier League and true enough that’s exactly what he’s doing!

Day 2 – Round 1

Dennis Priestley 2-0 Geoffrey Matthews

Straight forward for Priestley against a qualifier who was never in it. This sets up a second cracker against Adrian Lewis with lots at stake. It promises to be one of the matches of the tournament. As for Matthews he can take credit for getting here in the first place and the experience will have helped enormously.

Mark Dudbridge 0-2 Steve Beaton

There are several players who have been in a comfort zone for a while now and Dudbridge is one. His 2006 performances have nothing short of woeful and he needs to end the year on a high note to ensure his world ranking does not plummit. Beaton came through the tough qualifiers to get here and his hot streak could take him further still.

Alan Warriner-Little 1-2 Raymond van Barneveld

The Iceman has chances galore to knock out a struggling Barney. Having changed his darts he still does not look totally comfortable with them and Warriner could and should have taken advantage. A dodgy knee injury did not help but if he had hit a few more doubles it would be him looking forward to Taylor in round 2. Instead we have the match that almost everybody wants to see.

Garrett Gray 0-2 Andy Smith

Andy Smith was given a fairly easy passage into round two and could well progress further if he hits the form of recent weeks. It’s Mardle next and an upset wouldn’t be such an upset given the current form of the two. Gray will have enjoyed his time here and gave everything he could.

Phil Taylor 2-0 Wes Newton

Missed chances from Newton made the scoreline look a little more straightforward than it actually was. Taylor played well enough and could have been pushed harder but in the end it was the expected result and the clash of round two against Barney becomes reality.

Adrian Lewis 2-0 Barrie Bates

Lewis was on fire against Bates who had no answer. Plenty of 180’s and ruthless finishing means that the second round match against Priestley will be a belter. Bates has had a great year and his progress is marked by the fact that he didn’t have to qualify to get here.

Ronnie Baxter 2-0 Alan Green

Alan Green couldn’t live with The Rocket who produced a performance when he needed to. Great scoring and finishing made this potential banana skin straightforward. It’s Wade up next and it is this form that Baxter will need again to get past him.

Paul Watton 0-2 James Wade

Can Wade go one better than Blackpool and win this one? It’s highly possible as he continues to produce great darts day after day. his confidence is sky high and there is nobody he can’t beat at the moment. Watton applied himself well but was never in it. Wade has champion written all over him.

Day 1 – Round 1

Lionel Sams 2-1 John Part

The first match of the week produced a performance of Jekyll & Hyde proportions from Part. Hitting the doubles and seemingly cruising to victory he hit the self destruct button and allowed Sams to take it. Sams is starting to show the form on stage that we all know he has and he can only get better as he gets more confidence. For Part this was one to forget.

Kevin Painter 0-2 Andy Callaby

Callaby was the man in form having qualified to get here and this is the precise type of situation that produces a shock – a qualifier on a hot streak and a top 10 player in less than best form. And that is exactly how it went. Callaby appears to enjoy this tournament and could ruffle a few more feathers before the week is out.

Andy Jenkins 1-2 Terry Jenkins

We said Jenkins would win and we sided with the right one. Andy had his chance but Terry held his nerver to win a high quality and exciting contest. Possibly the game of the night and Andy will be upset that the draw handed him a tie against an in form player rather than one of the other flops we saw tonight.

Anto McCracken 2-1 Mark Walsh

Walsh is definitely struggling with this throwing action and it is sad to see. He’s going backwards fast and McCracken only had to produce average darts to win this. Hopefully Walsh can overcome his obvious problems and regain his confidence – something which the boisterous Anto has plenty of. How far can he go showing this form though?

Colin Lloyd 1-2 Bob Anderson

Colin Lloyd was the victim of a first round ‘shock’ again. But is it such a shock when the opponent is Bob Anderson who has played some of the best darts of his life over the last couple of years. The world rankings and form book says Lloyd every day but this short format and double off is a great leveller and Anderson took full advantage for a deserved win.

Peter Manley 2-0 Chris Mason

Mason did not turn up and Manley did. It has been the other way round for Manley of late but he showed exactly what he is made of with a great display. Mason disappoints in yet another major – will he ever win one? Manley is on the ropes in the race for the Premier League but how many times have we seen him come through at the last gasp? He’s done it in the Premier League itself and it looks like he might do it again to qualify this time.

Wayne Mardle 2-0 Denis Ovens

A straight forward win for Mardle who played well to keep Ovens subdued. Mardle looks in decent enough nick to give this title a real shot after failing in previous years.

Roland Scholten 2-0 Dave Askew

As straight forward as predicted with Askew another player going backwards and struggling to hold on to his world ranking. Scholten could go far this week and cement his place in the Premier League

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