Premier League darts starts this week with huge crowds and an even bigger TV audience. Betfair went to meet Northern Ireland's Daryl Gurney who is making his debut this year.
"When you think every arena for the Premier League is selling out, 10,000 people on a Thursday night, watching darts, it’s unbelievable, unheard of. Bar football what else can draw that sort of crowd on a midweek night on a regular basis?"
Hi Daryl, so how do you feel about your debut? Nervous?
I'm buzzing. I love darts, I love playing darts and outside of the world championships the best thing to play in is the Premier League. I really can't wait to get at it, I'm more of a player than I am one for hanging around doing these interviews! The sooner the better.
Is it good for you that it all starts in Ireland, even if it's South of the border and you don't get back to Belfast until Judgement Night in March?
Definitely, and actually it's great that the first of them all is in Dublin. That's where I won the Grand Prix so it obviously brings back some great memories, so it is all good.
Do you have to pinch yourself at how your sport is growing, even in the five years since you joined the PDC?
The progression is unbelievable. Of course the world championship is still the biggest tournament, we all still want to win that one, but whenever you play now on any TV event it is massive. When you think every arena for the Premier League is selling out, 10,000 people on a Thursday night, watching darts, it's unbelievable, unheard of. Bar football what else can draw that sort of crowd on a midweek night on a regular basis?
You mentioned the world championships. After a great run last year that was a disappointment for you.
Yes, I got beaten in the second round by John Henderson. To be honest I didn't play badly but at the same time didn't play my "A plus" game and John did. That's why he ended up winning. He took some crucial shots when I was sitting on doubles, a couple of great finishes when the pressure was on. Just one of those games, I had my chances on a couple of doubles but he got them and the game was changed just on those little details.
All the more disappointing because you arrived there in form having got into the top half dozen of the rankings?
Yes, I had a brilliant tour, I think I got beaten in three or four finals by quality players, but I always felt it was because they played brilliant darts rather than because I didn't produce my best. Then the Grand Prix was really a dream come true, winning my first major. This is only my fifth season on the PDC so it is still a short space of time.
The Grand Prix was a bit of a breakthrough to win a first major, does it give you the confidence to think you can win more?
I put myself under pressure at every tournament because I want to do well, but if I get beat by a better player on the night I'm happy enough. Everything is on an up for me, it was been a super 2017 so hopefully I can progress again this year.
Rob Cross told us he started playing when his uncle found a set of darts on a canal tow path, what was your story?
My dad was a good player. He played for a pub team but also played county darts, and he won one cap for Ireland. He was a great player but he always practised on his own until he was bored one night and wanted to break up his rhythm, so he got me to practise with him when I was 12. He gave me a 100 start when we first started, and after six to eight months I was giving him a 100 start!
Great story. Hope he's your biggest fan now.
He watches now, comes with me, goes to the Players Championship and the UK finals, and hasn't missed Alexandra Palace yet. Sadly he can't play himself any longer, he had to have a heart operation and that restricted him from throwing and ever since then he can't get the same force behind the darts. I think he can throw three darts once every six months, so it is all the more inspiration for me to do well.
We mentioned Rob Cross who was the story of the world championships, what do you make of his emergence?
To be honest even though it might have been a surprise to other people him winning, it wasn't a shock to me. People who want to play PDC now know what they have got to produce. Rob had obviously watched that, did his time working and practising, and deserves all he gets. Full marks to him.
The standard gets better every year, what's your practice schedule like?
I do a few hours every night. Because I am playing on my own all the time I'm up and down the oche that fast that two hours feels more like four in terms of the amount of work you get in.
That must be quite tough on your own, demands a lot of discipline?
You get used to it, after 18 years of playing darts it's just what I do. I have a bit of music playing in the background, that's all you need, and then keep on practising.
So what's the best music to throw darts to?
Nothing in particular, just whatever's on the radio, I switch on Radio One or something and whatever is on is better than just being quiet.
Great - it's certainly not going to be quiet in these arenas now.
That's for sure and I'll enjoy that. I love the atmosphere of these big events and can't wait to get on with it.
We wish you well and we've a free £50 bet with winnings to your favourite charity to say thanks for your time.
That's brilliant, I'll support the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and I'm a big Formula One fan so I'll back Sebastian Vettel at [5.0] to win this year's Drivers Championship.
*The 2018 Unibet Premier League will be broadcast live on Sky Sports every Thursday from February 1 to May 17.