The World Seniors Darts Championship gets underway with four first round matches inside the Circus Tavern on Thursday evening when a former world champion and four other world finalists set foot onto this iconic stage once again.
These first round matches are over the best of five sets and will give us a throwback to the old days as well as remind us that a couple of old dogs still have plenty of tricks. This should be a good start to an eagerly anticipated tournament.
Robert Thornton vs Bob Anderson
We get underway with the man who many think will lift the trophy on Sunday night in Robert Thornton and the ‘Limestone Cowboy’ Bob Anderson, the only man on this opening night who has lifted the world title in the past.
Anderson has never lost his competitive edge. He always does exhibitions on that circuit, but we should remember that scene has been heavily impacted by Covid, but he also enters local tournaments to keep his eye in. I suspect the 1988 world champion will be more competitive the longer this seniors tour goes on so this will be all about Thornton, who as the odds suggest should really win this 3-0. That might be one for the accumulators but I’m happy to leave it for the first match of a new tournament.
Peter Manley vs Deta Hedman
The second match of the night looks like it might be the weakest of the four on paper as two former world finalists meet when Peter Manley takes on Deta Hedman. The reward, if you can call it that, for whoever comes through this one is a clash with Phil Taylor on Friday night.
I guess all eyes here will be on Manley to see what sort of shape his game is in. If this was to be the only seniors event then I would wager it wouldn’t be in much of one but I wonder if the fact there are a few tournaments on the calendar and the lure of a meeting with Taylor will have encouraged him to give the practice board some welly. In saying that, he is heavily involved in the PDPA so how much time he has to practice is another story. Hedman is competitive at the top level of women’s darts still and while her best isn’t of the level of Lisa Ashton and Fallon Sherrock who has taken the ladies game to new levels, no woman has the experience Deta has. If she can keep her focus and hits her doubles I think she takes out ‘One Dart’ who is likely to need a lot more goes at that on the outer ring these days.
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Tony O’Shea vs Kevin Painter
The penultimate match of the opening night of the tournament should see the standard and the competitiveness really go up a notch when two more former world finalists battle it out as Tony O’Shea takes on Kevin Painter, who so nearly achieved a lifelong dream on this very stage an incredible 18 years ago.
O’Shea has dipped in and out of the darting scene in recent times but he played in the Remote Darts League and the Online Live League last year and had plenty of success in it so he can still throw a decent dart. Painter also went well in the Online Live League last year and has only recently dropped off the PDC tour in the last couple of years so his level should be pretty good as well. Painter will surely be inspired by this venue and I’d make him favourite but there is certainly a case for Tony O’Shea being a big price in what should be a cracking contest.
Darryl Fitton vs Richie Howson
The final match of the night sees two men who probably never achieved in their careers what they should have done battling it out when Darryl Fitton looks to dazzle against the qualifier Richie Howson who will be hoping to use home advantage to his prosperity.
A last 16 clash with Martin Adams awaits the winner of this match and this is one where I can see an upset coming along. Fitton has been slowly fading from the top scene and although he has made it into the WDF World Championship later in the year, his best darts are behind him based on his showings in the Remote Darts League and Online Live League last season. You could tell the delight on Howson’s face in his interview after he qualified for this tournament, a night in which he took care of Ronnie Baxter and Brian Dawson among others and threw some decent darts. At his best Howson was a PDC player and it is only two years ago he gave up. There is a lot of talk that Howson has been banging the practice board ahead of this event and with it being five minutes from where he lives I think he’ll just be that little more comfortable than Fitton. I expect a Howson win here to deny us an age-old BDO bash up in the last 16.
Back D.Hedman to beat P.Manley for a 3/10 stake at 2.10 with Boylesports
Back R.Howson to beat D.Fitton for a 3/10 stake at 2.10 with Boylesports
Back them here: