Taylor's double-tops in a Big Top enthrall Irish

In a 750-seat tent the eight-time world champion converted a nation holding its biggest-ever darts event.

Since its foundation in 1994 the Professional Darts Corporation has gone from strength to strength in broadening the international appeal of the sport. Created by 17 top players, including John Lowe, Eric Bristow and other big names who were unhappy with the administration of the game by the British Darts Organisation, the PDC has done wonders with its latest coup - the World Grand Prix in Rosslare, Ireland. The biggest darts event ever to hit the Emerald Isle was staged in a specially built 750-seater pavilion that could have happily hosted any feast for Brian Boru, the legendary king of Ireland.

Since its foundation in 1994 the Professional Darts Corporation has gone from strength to strength in broadening the international appeal of the sport. Created by 17 top players, including John Lowe, Eric Bristow and other big names who were unhappy with the administration of the game by the British Darts Organisation, the PDC has done wonders with its latest coup - the World Grand Prix in Rosslare, Ireland. The biggest darts event ever to hit the Emerald Isle was staged in a specially built 750-seater pavilion that could have happily hosted any feast for Brian Boru, the legendary king of Ireland.

Despite a Force 10 gale and torrential rain on Thursday night, all the exuberant fans noticed was the odd ripple of the side canopies. That was probably due to the rapturous applause of the fans for the brilliance of Phil "The Power" Taylor, eight times a world champion, and above all Shayne Burgess, who is now an adopted Paddy.

Early doors Taylor, himself, was not at his best in his first-round match against Kevin Painter. A three-month tour of the Far East seemed to have taken its toll on his stamina. But when Painter failed to get a double 12 to save the match, Taylor, who was 321 points behind, struck back unbelievably. He then blazed to the semi-final with a 6-1 victory over the talented Chris Mason of Bristol. "What do you have to do to beat this man?" asked an emotional Mason. Practise?

Despite all the fun, there was a very sad note to the week. We heard of the death of the great Tommy O'Regan of Limerick, who in the 1970s captained both the English and Irish darts teams - not at the same time. Tommy was one of the men, along with Alan Evans and Alan Glazier, who started darts exhibitions, taking on the best 15 in Barnsley or Bolton and doing trick shots, as a form of income for players.

Having down-time as a commentator is tricky, you can't have a couple of jars with the lads at lunchtime or you would get the scores wrong later. So myself, John Gwynne and a group of players went to Wexford races on Saturday afternoon - it was a complete disaster. It poured down, the mud completely covered the jockeys so that their colours didn't show and our syndicate lost £28 on three races - all "sure fire tips" from local darts fans. It is a good job the meeting was abandoned after an hour and a half or we would have lost a bundle.

Crosbie Cedars Hotel, which hosted the event, has a great disco and on a couple of nights the players and commentators boogied the night away. The local ravers were then completely gobsmacked when four of my Irish fans crawled over the floor and began kissing my shoes. They love their darts, the Paddies.

From day one their favourite was "The Bulldog" Burgess, who literally lives off the land. He caught seven giant dogfish, gutted them himself and hung them out on a clothes line behind the players' hotel. Then he had them for his tea. Shayne's popularity is based on an eight-week tour of Ireland that has just ended, and he got far more applause than two local players, Paul Watton of Antrim and Mitchell Crooks of Portadown.

Shayne's modesty, cheeky grin and Dracula teeth, which he puts in at the end of each exhibition, has really caught the Irish imagination. One day I reckon he will take the world title.

When the players got down to the last eight it looked likely that Alan Warriner of Lancaster, once a nurse and now a club-owner, would be the man to provide the challenge to the holder of the title, Taylor. But, in a brilliant quarter-final, Burgess checked out on 147 with Warriner looking glumly at 48. The end-of-match hug lasted a full two minutes.

The final, for a Waterford crystal trophy and IR£15,000, was a repeat of last year's, with Burgess taking on Taylor. The crowd was 75 per cent for Shayne and waved their billycock, Viking and leprechaun hats for every dart thrown. At the start of the race to six sets, Taylor looked more vulnerable than I have seen him for several years. His "stacking" technique of placing darts on top of each other in the 60 bed was badly off kilter. But, fatally, Burgess could not take chances to win deciding legs in three key sets. So "The Power" was allowed to go into cruise control and win easily with an average just over 93. Which, with a double-to-start rule, is excellent.

Taylor was, as usual, gracious in victory. "Shayne is a great player and in fact I am proud of the standard of all the lads this week," he said. Hehas now won all four world titles in the last 12 months. "I play hard because I've got a family to support," he added. Taylor ended the proceedings doing a jive with two Irish jig dancers on the stage. Shayne went back to the hotel to sharpen his hooks and go down the harbour for more dogfish.

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