Dublin delight for Finnan

Irish debutant Connie Finnan stunned two-time finalist Terry Jenkins with a thrilling 2-0 partypoker.com World Grand Prix victory last night, as former champions Phil Taylor and James Wade joined the Limerick ace in round two of the double-start event.

World number 74 Finnan, from Garryowen, produced the performance of his life to thrill his home crowd at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin.

The 51-year-old came from a leg down to win the opening set 3-1, and though Jenkins kicked off the second set with a 152 finish, Finnan took the next two to move to the brink of victory.

Jenkins hit back to take the set into a deciding leg with a 14-darter, but Finnan was first to a finish as he landed double eight to complete the biggest triumph of his career.

“I can’t believe it – to win in front of the home crowd was absolutely unbelievable and I can do back to Limerick now with my head held high,” said Finnan, who was cheered on by his wife, daughter and six sisters!

“The support of the crowd was fantastic and I was over the moon with how I played. To be just in the same practice room as these players is unreal for me and it’s a dream come true to beat Terry.

Finnan, who is already guaranteed to be back at the Citywest Hotel on Sunday night when he competes for the leading domestic honour in the Tom Kirby Memorial Irish Matchplay final against Colin McGarry, will now take on two-time World Grand Prix champion in Wednesday’s second round.

However, he revealed the he will have to ask for time off from his day job in a factory in Shannon making plastic bag closures to return to Dublin for his last 16 contest.

“I’m travelling back to Limerick on Tuesday and I’ll be in work on Wednesday morning, but I need to ask for the afternoon off to come back for the second round,” he said.

“I hadn’t booked the time off in advance so I’ll be trying to finish early, about 12 o’clock, to get back up here, and we’ll see what happens after that – it would be great to be in both finals next Sunday!”

Wade, the 2007 and 2010 World Grand Prix champion, came close to suffering a second successive first round exit before he edged out Steve Beaton in a dramatic deciding leg.

The world number five won the game’s opening set in a deciding leg with a brilliant 12-darter, only for Beaton to level by hitting a 120 finish in the fifth leg of the second.

The final set also went to the last leg, with Wade initially missing three match darts only to be given a reprieve when Beaton missed double 12 for a 101 finish, allowing the left-hander to peg double five to progress.

“I’m very happy with my game and I had to be well-prepared because Steve’s a great player,” said Wade, the number five seed. “This tournament’s got a lot of great memories for me, and I’m looking forward to my next game now.”

Australian star Simon Whitlock also came through a nerve-wracking decider as he sneaked past Northern Irish left-hander Michael Mansell, who came from a set down to level but missed three match darts in a dramatic sudden-death leg.

“I’m very relieved!” admitted Whitlock. “When someone has three darts in their hand to win the match, you don’t expect another shot but I got lucky and hit the double.

“Mickey’s a quality player and he had a chance to win there, but I’m going to move on from this and hopefully keep winning.

“I’ve got to improve for the second round and have a think about what my starting double should be. All I do in practice is doubles, so I don’t have a favourite and I’m still confused. I don’t know what to do, but I’ve got two days to decide!”

Ten-time champion Phil Taylor was another 2-1 winner as he overcame Jamie Caven, although the Stoke legend won both of his sets without reply with some scintillating darts.

Taylor kicked off the game with scores of 160 and 180 to set up a possible nine-darter, and although he missed out on that achievement the 53-year-old won the opening set 3-0 with a 115 average.

Caven hit back to win the second set 3-2, producing some fine darts, but was punished as Taylor found another gear to take the deciding set without reply as he moved through to a second round meeting with Paul Nicholson on Wednesday.

“I thought Jamie played superbly there,” said Taylor, who ended the game with a 99.94 average. “He was up for it and he produced some brilliant darts, and it was blow-for-blow – but the only thing he did wrong was to miss a double [to level at 1-1] in the last set.

“It was a great way to start the week and that should set me up for the tournament now. I’ve got Paul Nicholson next and the longer format means we can relax a little, we should both play well and it will be a cracking game.”

Caven admitted: “I’m pleased with how I played and in many ways it was easy to face Phil because you know what you’re going to get.

“This time last year I’d have been devastated to lose, but Phil was fabulous – it was amazing to watch him in that first set and I was just a spectator at times!”

Nicholson also averaged 99 in his impressive 2-1 comeback win over Robert Thornton, as the former Players Championship Finals winner hit 64 percent of his opening doubles and 57 percent of his finishing doubles in the game.

Thornton took the game’s first two legs and won the opening set 3-2, but Nicholson took the next six legs without reply to surge into the last 16.

“I’m very happy with that,” said Nicholson. “It was a very focused performance and a lot of thought went into the game, so to say that I’m happy is an understatement.

“Robert’s a very good friend of mine and I was very relaxed, and I treated the game as just a darts match. It was a fantastic game and I stuck to the task because I knew how tough it was going to be, and I had a plan that worked for me.

“I played really well in the first set but the comeback shows the character I’m trying to build. I was under pressure and it’s a hard format because the best of three sets is tough, but to beat Robert is a great privilege.”

Two-time champion Wade edged past Steve Beaton in a dramatic three-set thriller, with the former World Champion missing one dart to edge victory in a sudden-death leg – at double 12 for a 101 finish – before the world number five hit double five to progress.

“I’m very happy with my game and I had to be well-prepared because Steve’s a great player,” said Wade, the 2007 and 2010 champion. “This tournament’s got a lot of great memories for me, and I’m looking forward to my next game now.”

Number four seed Whitlock was another sudden-death leg winner, as he edged out Steve Beaton in a dramatic game which saw the former World Champion miss one match dart – at double 12 for a 101 finish – in the deciding leg of the final set before the Australian hit double eight to sneak the win.

“I’m very relieved!” admitted Whitlock. “When someone has three darts in their hand to win the match, you don’t expect another shot but I got lucky and hit the double.

“Mickey’s a quality player and he had a chance to win there, but I’m going to move on from this and hopefully keep winning.

“I’ve got to improve for the second round and have a think about what my starting double should be. All I do in practice is doubles, so I don’t have a favourite and I’m still confused. I don’t know what to do, but I’ve got two days to decide!”

Whitlock’s second round opponent will be Ronnie Baxter, who was a straight sets winner over 2004 champion Colin Lloyd in the night’s opening fixture.

“I’m delighted that I’m through,” said Baxter. “It’s a long time since I’ve won here in Dublin so it’s great for me, and though my average wasn’t brilliant, it’s good to get a ‘dirty’ win sometimes.

“I was hitting the treble pretty well and a win like that sets me up for the rest of the week now.”

Gary Anderson produced the performance of the night, averaging 104.86 in a two-set whitewash of Dutchman Jelle Klaasen which took just ten minutes.

The Scot was in scintillating form as he swept through the first set before finishing 84, 100 and a 12-darter in the second to complete his best-ever performance in the double-start format, without giving Klaasen a dart at a double.

“I’m really pleased with that,” said Anderson. “The last time I played Jelle, he absolutely hammered me so I know what he can do and I didn’t give him any chance.

“When my doubles go in, this is what my game’s like but it’s also nice to see my scoring back. It all came together and if my darts go alright, then I don’t care who I’m playing.

“I was getting to a stage where I was starting to dig a hole for myself by thinking what I was doing wrong, was it my darts or the way I was standing, but I’m going to just go up on stage and throw, and if they go in then so be it.”

The Scot now plays number eight seed Wes Newton, who defeated Peter Wright in straight sets with some clinical finishing to book his spot in the last 16.

“It might have looked easy but it wasn’t, and I was pretty nervous going into the game,” said Newton. “With it being such a short format, and playing a good player like Peter Wright, I put myself under pressure to win.

“I’m happy with that, it was a solid performance and though it was nothing too special, you can’t do much better than to win 2-0. I managed to kick on after losing the first set, and the pressure was on Peter after that.”

The first round concludes today with the remaining eight games, including reigning champion Michael van Gerwen’s clash with three-time World Champion John Part.

Fellow Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld takes on debutant Stuart Kellett, while European Champion Adrian Lewis – the number three seed – faces 2011 runner-up Brendan Dolan, the Northern Irish favourite who also reached last year’s semi-finals.

Andy Hamilton faces Belgian Kim Huybrechts, Dave Chisnall meets Ian White, Justin Pipe takes on three-time quarter-finalist Andy Smith, Kevin Painter plays Richie Burnett and 2012 runner-up Mervyn King opens up against Wayne Jones.

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