The PDC Home Tour, which has been gracing the screens of darts fans during lockdown, has ventured into its second stage as we once again visit the homes of the sport’s biggest and most talented players.
The special event, which was set up as a way to continue competitive darts during the COVID-19 pandemic, has had it all. A nine-darter, incredible comebacks, tonne-plus averages, upsets and triumphs. All presented by the charismatic and entertaining Dan Dawson, it has been tremendous entertainment during a time when we have never needed it more.
A group-based format with matches being decided by best-of-eleven legs, it has allowed the world to slightly peer into the personal lives of the sport’s biggest stars. The ability to hear the mid-game banter between players and even the host himself, it has not just been a showcase for some quality darts, it has been surprisingly hilarious and just endless fun.
If anything encapsulates the sheer entertainment value of this at-home competition, it was the opening group of the second stage that took place on Wednesday. The match of the night being the clash of two former BDO World Champions, with ‘The Bullet’ Stephen Bunting overcoming the challenge of world number 19 Glen Durrant in a high-quality affair that included world-class finishing and astronomical scoring. Such a close group that you couldn’t look away, even for a second, as Bunting bottled his place at the helm by falling to a 6-2 defeat to veteran Alan Tabern, which allowed up-and-comer Mike De Decker to squeeze into his place to win the group on legs difference. The ever-consistent ‘Duzza’ was left at the very bottom of the standings, bowing out of the competition alongside ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Bullet’.
Something about this event that doesn’t get the acknowledgement it deserves is how it has helped shine the limelight on some not-so-well-known talented darters. As a Welshman, I’m going to be slightly biased and name drop Nick Kenny as the prime example of a major benefactor of the Home Tour. Currently, within his first-ever year holding a PDC tour card, the Cwmbran resident shocked darts fans by qualifying for the second stage as group winner.
Successfully brushing aside the challenge of reigning PDC World Youth Champion Luke Humphries. A tournament that has helped make dreams come true for Kenny, as despite being eliminated on Thursday, he had the chance to play one of his all-time idols in two-time World Champion and darting icon Gary Anderson, with ‘The Flying Scotsman’ joining De Decker and Jelle Klaasen in topping their respective groups and progressing to the semi-finals.
It certainly hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, that’s for sure. As expected when hosting an event that is ever reliant on a stable connection, there have been a fair few technological issues. Whether that be through players being unable to connect to the game or a loss of audio or video. The most notable case was when it was announced that Keegan Brown was unable to fulfil his games due to poor internet connection, which left the group having to be played out by just three darters.
This type of event is perfect for these current circumstances, but issues such as these make me look forward to a time when fans are filling up the seats of prestigious venues such as Alexandra Palace once again, and echoes of ‘Chase the Sun’ cannoning from wall-to-wall. A time where we hear the croaky and iconic 180 calls from Russ Bray and chants of entertained people sitting around a table covered with pints of lager.
But nevertheless, this event has definitely come up with some memorable and shocking moments. The first that springs to mind being world number 3 Gerwyn Price being unable to qualify for the second stage despite two attempts, along with his fellow adversary and reigning World Champion Peter Wright getting eliminated from the competition on Monday. And don’t forget that spine-tingling nine-dart finish from Luke Woodhouse – even without a crowd reaction that would make you think a natural disaster had just stormed through the city, this moment was still extremely special.
The best thing about it is that there are still a lot more darts left to be played. With the likes of Rob Cross, Chris Dobey, Nathan Aspinall, Jonny Clayton and many more still awaiting their chance to press record on their smartphones, step towards the oche and fire their darts towards the finals of the competition.
It might not be quite the market substitute to replace proper live professional darts, but within these testing and troubling times, the PDC has played a blinder in getting so many talented people to congregate and put on a darting clinic for their passionate fanbase who are stuck in lockdown.
At the end of the day, it’s the closest thing we are going to get to competitive darts currently, but with sports such as Football beginning to come out the other side unscathed, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel for professional darts, and they will have events like the Home Tour to thank in keeping the sport in the public eye.
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk