Francis Carragher previews all the action from the opening weekend of the PDC World Championship at Alexandra Palace in London, where two men from Northern Ireland and four from the Republic are in action.
Jelle Klaasen v Kevin Burness
Friday 13 December
Northern Ireland’s Kevin Burness faces 2016 semi-finalist, Dutchman Jelle Klassen in the opening game of this year’s PDC World Championships.
It’s been a year where both men have struggled on the Oche, with Burness having to come through the PDPA Qualifier a few short weeks ago just to qualify.
Experience of beating Paul Nicholson last year on his debut on the big stage should hold the Northern Irishman in good stead, but Klassen is a dangerous opponent who could fire in a big average on a good day.
A tight match on paper but Burness may find it difficult to reproduce the form he showed at the PDPA Qualifier. Klassen just shades it on paper to set up a tie later in the evening with current world champion Michael van Gerwen.
Prediction: Klassen 3-2 Burness
Here it is…. 96 players battling it out over 28 sessions of darts for the right to be the winner of the 2019/20 @WilliamHill World Darts Championship
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) November 27, 2019
Ross Smith v Ciaran Teehan
Sunday 15 December
A tough opening game for Cork native and current Irish Masters champion Ciaran Teehan who plays Englishman Ross Smith.
Smith has by all accounts had a good year, recently making the Grand Slam of Darts, Players Championship Finals, European Championship and also had a run to the quarter-finals of the UK Open earlier on in the year.
Teehan, who has secured himself a tour card off the Development Tour OOM, will be looking forward to this immensely.
He has recently signed with Bulls Darts in Germany and with Shamrock Darts Management looking after his affairs for 2020 he could go on to good things on next year’s Pro Tour.
His initial PDC introduction looks a tough one and Smith’s experience should see him safely into Round 2. But Teehan is more than capable on his day and it could easily be closer than the experts think.
Prediction: Smith 3-1 Teehan
Brendan Dolan v Nitin Kumar
Sunday 15 December
A rejuvenated Brendan Dolan should have no issues getting through to Round 2 on Sunday, as he faces Indian qualifier Nitin Kumar.
The man from Belcoo on the Fermanagh/Cavan/Leitrim border has been in fine form this year winning two pro tour events, and will be hopeful he can emulate his fantastic run to the quarter-finals last year.
Prediction: Dolan 3-0 Kumar
Steve Lennon v Callan Rydz
Monday 16 December
A coin flip game on paper where either player could win. Rydz has been unlucky the last couple of visits to PDC Q School, but has more than made up for that this year winning a development tour and adding two Challenge Tour titles to his trophy cabinet.
He finished top of the CT OOM and like Teehan is another who will compete on the Pro Tour for 2020.
Lennon has had a quiet enough year on the Pro Tour but had a super run to the final of the PDC World Cup of darts, alongside Limerick’s Willie O’Connor back in June.
He played out a thriller last year against Alan Norris and was unfortunate to lose, but the stage experience from 2019 may just see the Carlow man over the line.
Prediction: Lennon 3-1 Rydz
William O’Connor v Marko Kantele
Monday 16 December
Limerickman Willie O’Connor will begin his World Championship against Finland’s Marko Kantele on Monday night.
O’Connor has been in good form recently, bowing out in a last leg decider to Ian White in the quarter-finals of the Players Championships a few weeks ago.
He also added his first Players Championship title to his Cabinet back in April at PC 13. Kantele, on the other hand, has had a quiet year on the Pro Tour and has no real form of late to assess.
He is more than capable of a good showing on his day but may find the Limerickman a bit tough in the opening round.
Prediction: O’Connor 3-1 Kantele
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) December 13, 2019
Vincent van der Voort v Keane Barry
Monday 16 December
Make sure the drinks are at the table for this game, because blink and you will miss it!
The 2019 Irish Match Play champion Keane Barry will become the first ever 17-year-old to grace the famous stage.
The youngster, from Duleek in Co Meath, has skyrocketed to the head of the Irish Rankings in Ireland after winning numerous National Titles in 2019.
The speedster, nicknamed Dynamite, can be erratic at times and survived multiple match darts in the Tom Kirby final against Liam Gallagher to eventually come out on top 6-5 just to get here.
The Meathman, who is mentored by Darryl Fitton and part of Target’s ELITE group, faces no easy task on his World Championship debut.
The Dutch Destroyer has been plagued by back problems over the last couple of years but normally saves his best darts for Christmas time.
He has only lost once in the opening round at ‘Ally Pally’ back in 2016 and playing Barry in a quick game will suit him down to the ground.
He should have no problems accounting for the young man from Meath, but should Barry cause the upset he would be the youngest player ever to reach the second round proper.
Regardless of the result Barry returns later on in the week for the World JDC Junior Final on Saturday.
He should enjoy the experience and there is plenty of optimism that he can produce some of the darts he has shown this year in Ireland in the INDO system, and the BDO where he won the Northern Ireland Masters in October.
Prediction: Vincent van der Voort 3-1 Keane Barry