Irish Matchplay joy for O’Connor


William O’Connor defeated Jason Cullen 6-4 to win the 2017 Tom Kirby Memorial Irish Matchplay final, securing his William Hill World Darts Championship debut in the process.

The Cappamore carpenter claimed Ireland’s top domestic honour for the first time – having lost in the 2009 decider to Aodhagan O’Neill – with a strong showing as he saw off Wexford’s Cullen.

The match began in style, with Cullen taking out a 160 checkout in the opening leg before O’Connor followed a 13-darter with a 177 to leave 44 as he broke to move 2-1 up.

Cullen then capitalised on misses from the Limerick ace in the next two to regain the edge, only for O’Connor to claim back-to-back legs and a 4-3 lead, hitting the game’s second maximum in the process.

Double eight edged O’Connor a leg away from victory, and though Cullen briefly kept the game alive on double 16 in leg nine, the Limerick ace landed double eight as he sealed the win.

The triumph sees O’Connor qualify for his first World Championship appearance as he prepares to take to the stage at Alexandra Palace in December in the sport’s biggest tournament.

“I’m delighted,” said O’Connor. “Jason’s a cracking player and I know what he can do. He showed some of his best darts but didn’t play his best.

“I’ve had several chances of qualifying and it’s been playing on my mind a little bit, hopefully this kills the demons. It’s the one tournament I’ve always wanted to play in and I’ll get my chance now.

“The longer the format goes the better I will start playing – I need a little bit of time to settle and I can show people what I can do then. I know it’s only a matter of time.”


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