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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Darts star Taylor powers up in Ulverston

DARTS fans were treated to a night of high-class entertainment when the world’s greatest player toed the oche in Ulverston.

An excited crowd of more than 500 packed into the Coronation Hall to watch Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor star in one of South Cumbria’s biggest ever darts exhibitions.

The 15-time world champion, who was joined on stage by friend and fellow arrows legend Dennis ‘The Menace’ Priestley, told the Evening Mail: “These types of events are always good fun and I enjoy meeting people.

“I don’t think I’ve been to Ulverston before in my life, though I remember doing two nights in Barrow-in-Furness many years ago.

“When you’re at home and practising lots, it’s like living in a birdcage, really. Then when you come out, you realise you have fans who want to watch and meet you, and so it’s great to do that.

“Me and Dennis have worked together lots over the years, and when we do we always have a good laugh and enjoy it.”

Taylor arrived at the sell-out event having played a 7-7 Premier League thriller against reigning world champion Adrian Lewis in front of 9,000 fans in Manchester the night before.

But the 51-year-old showed no signs of tiredness as he took on members of the audience in legs of 501 darts.

First to try and topple Taylor was 21st birthday boy Andrew Porter, from Eskdale, who said: “I got off to a decent start, but then the nerves kicked in and he won.

“It was amazing to play darts against the best player to have walked the earth.”

Steve Callister, the 2010 Evening Mail darts champion and landlord of the Furness Tavern in Askam, was another lucky ticket holder who got to go one-on-one with Taylor.

“It has always been my dream to play against a top professional, but to do so against The Power was just unbelievable,” said Callister, who threw his own Phil Taylor-branded darts. I was so nervous, I think that’s why he beat me!”

Stoke-born Taylor, who has twice been short-listed for the BBC Sports Personality of The Year award, also showed no mercy when hitting big scores in his leg against Michelle Fredericks.

The 32-year-old Michelle from Barrow, who plays darts locally for the Dirty Duck, said: “I thought he might have been a bit lenient on the only girl – but no, he went and hit two 180s!

“It was a brilliant experience and I can’t wait to tell all the other lasses in the team about it.”

Priestley, himself a two-time world champion, also took on local players, and, in his first match, checked-out in a brilliant 103 finish against Ulverston’s Carl Botterill.

With the beers flowing and the now traditional darts theme tune of Chasing The Sun by Planet Funk booming out of the speakers, the crowd, both those sitting on long tables at the front and up in the balcony, chanted at the top of their voices.

Renowned darts MC Paul Booth also played his part in whipping up a cracking atmosphere.

Taylor and Priestley later posed for photos and signed autographs before again taking to the oche, this time to play each other. A sports memorabilia auction also proved popular.

The 61-year-old Priestley who has close friends in Ulverston and is a regular visitor to the area, said: “It’s always nice to come here, though it’s better in spring and summer when it’s not as cold!

“It’s also nice to play darts with Phil again. We had a great rivalry for 10 years or so, then it became Phil and Barney (Raymond van Barneveld) and now it’s Phil and Adrian (Lewis).”

Taylor added: “The game has changed so much in recent years with the TV exposure and it is big again, like it was in the 70s and 80s. But did I think it would become quite as big has it has? No.”

And for people like Friday night’s event promoter, Dalton-based Glenn Higgins, the sport’s ever-increasing popularity can only be positive. Higgins, who has also organised the Ashes of Darts event, featuring Lewis, to be staged in Kendal next month, said: “Phil and Dennis were fantastic and said they would love come back to Ulverston to do another event.

“We had a couple of technical issues (with the large projector screen) but the show went on and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves.

“I’d like to thank everyone who made the night such a huge success.”

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