It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Daryl Gurney in this year’s Premier League Darts, but now it is all about the top four for the Northern Irishman as he faces a decisive two weeks in his play-off bid, writes Josh Gorton.
Following Night Six in Nottingham, Gurney was languishing in eighth spot, just three points above elimination danger after sharing the spoils with Peter Wright.
The previous two weeks had seen him suffer a 7-1 reversal against Rob Cross, a defeat that was compounded seven days later by a crushing whitewash loss inflicted by James Wade – just the tenth whitewash in Premier League history.
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Having accrued the solitary leg across two weeks of action you may have have been forgiven for questioning Gurney’s play-off credentials.
However, with just two weeks of league action remaining, the 33-year-old has a genuine chance of securing a coveted top-four spot and that’s testament to the mental fortitude shown by ‘Super Chin’.
“Players that have gone downhill since playing the Premier League have probably put too much pressure on themselves,” Gurney told Sky Sports.
“The way I look at it is when you’re playing in the Premier League against the best players in the world, it’s going to happen at some stage [being whitewashed].
“Phil Taylor’s got whitewashed in the Premier League, so it can happen to the best of us.
“Whenever you’re playing against the standard we are nowadays, everybody can beat everybody and that’s probably why the Premier League is so tight this year.
“Results like this happen, but pardon the pun, sometimes you just have to take it on the chin.”
The World No 3 is in positive spirits and who can blame him? He has won five of his last eight matches to launch himself into contention and the catalyst for his revival came on Night Seven, when he came from behind to defeat Michael van Gerwen in Berlin.
Gurney also defeated Van Gerwen 8-5 in Manchester last week to become just the second player in Premier League history to complete the league double over ‘The Green Machine’.
The Northern Irishman has now won his last three televised meetings against the World No 1 and he insists that his fearless approach has been instrumental in his recent success against the Dutchman.
“Whenever I played Michael I always tried too hard to beat him,” he admitted.
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“I knew on my day, leg for leg I could be as good as he is, it’s just a matter of getting over that hurdle of stop trying so hard and just play your own game. That’s what I’ve done against him lately and it’s paying off.”
Nevertheless, there’s no time for Gurney to reflect on his heroics against Van Gerwen, as he faces arguably his biggest match of this year’s league phase against fellow play-off hopeful Gerwyn Price.
Gurney leads ‘The Iceman’ by one point and although he trails fourth-placed Mensur Suljovic by the same margin, Suljovic faces Cross and Van Gerwen in his final two fixtures.
This presents a huge opportunity for the chasing pack, but Gurney is solely focused on his clash against the Welshman, with Price having won eight of their 11 meetings.
“I think Mensur has Rob Cross and Van Gerwen left, so I think it’s probably up to me and Gerwyn to see who gets the last spot, if Mensur doesn’t get a result against those two. We could be quite possibly playing for the fourth place,” Gurney said.
Price defeated the reigning Players Champion 7-4 when the pair clashed on Night One, but another defeat against the Grand Slam champion could potentially signal the end of Gurney’s top four aspirations.
“I probably just try too hard against him [Price] because obviously he does all that shouting and roaring,” said Gurney.
“He does a lot of talking behind you, he does talking behind the dart board, coming back from the board. He’s just a chatterbox. As a person he’s a nice guy.
“I’m a better player now and mentally a lot stronger, so hopefully I can come out on top tomorrow night and start beating him more times than he’s beaten me,” he added.
Like Price, Gurney is appearing in his second Premier League and there are several parallels between this year’s competition and his debut campaign in 2018.
What comes next? Night 15 – Thursday, May 9 – FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield Michael Smith vs James Wade Mensur Suljovic vs Rob Cross Daryl Gurney vs Gerwyn Price Michael van Gerwen vs Peter Wright
The 33-year-old endured a sluggish start 12 months ago and avoided an early elimination scare before storming into play-off contention, only to miss out in the final week of action.
The two-time PDC major winner has again enjoyed a strong second-half of the season, although he hopes that this year his efforts won’t be in vain, as he eyes a dream debut at London’s O2 Arena.
“If you’re an Englishman playing football you want to play at Wembley. So for me I’d love to play at all the great tournaments and venues,” Gurney claimed.