As with most of the British Isles, darts has become a pub mainstay across Northern Ireland over the past three decades offering both individual and team based formats. The country also hosts the Northern Ireland Open, a darts competition that draws players from all over the world.
This small country has also produced many professional darts players including Brendan Dolan, Michael Mansell, Ray Farrell and Daryl Gurney amongst others. Dolan and Mansell are currently amid the top 50 prize money earning darts players in the world over the last two years.
Leagues and Competitions
Northern Ireland is filled with a thriving darts community that is steadily growing. A number of established leagues take place throughout the country each week.
Belfast and Districts Men’s Darts League
A collection of leagues and cup competitions held within Belfast, and its surrounds, the Belfast and Districts Men’s Darts League offers organised competitions for darts clubs throughout the region.
The Premier Division includes the top 12 teams from the area while Division 1 features a further 16 teams. A promotion/relegation system features at the end of each season. A country league also takes place for teams situated outside the Belfast metropolitan area.
A number of cup and knockout competitions take place throughout the year including the Knockout Cup, the Billy Reid Cup, the Rice Cup and the Loughrin Cup. Other yearly competitions include a six-a-side league as well as local darts challenges.
Coleraine District Darts League
Serving the town of Coleraine and surrounds, this darts league includes ten teams as well as competitions for individuals, pairs and a knockout cup. The league itself if fiercely contested with four different winners over the past five years.
The North Belfast Darts League
Another league situated in Belfast, the Northern Belfast Darts League was a regular league for many years before it closed down in 1998. The demand for more darts leagues in the city saw it reappear in 2010. It currently consists of two leagues, a Premier Division as well as a Division 1 with a promotion/relegation system in effect at the end of each season.
The Northern Ireland Open
The Northern Ireland Open is the premier darts tournament in the country. It attracts 64 players each year, mostly from the British Isle and Europe, but sometimes as far afield as the United States.
Although not as prestigious as some other major darts competitions, the Northern Ireland Open offers a sizeable purse with over £3,600 on offer for the men’s tournament. The winner pockets £1,600. A ladies and junior tournament takes place in conjunction with the main event.
In recent years, the tournament has been dominated by Glen Durrant. The Englishman, ranked 12th in the world by the World Dart Federation, won both the 2013 and 2014 event. The last player from Northern Ireland to win the Open was Daryl Gurney in 2012.
Top Darts Players in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has produced a number of extremely talented darts players over the years.
Perhaps the most impressive player of these is Brendan Dolan. The 42-year old native of Belcoo, nicknamed “Armageddon”, has amassed over £215,500 on the PDC Order of Merit. He is currently ranked 11th in the world.
Dolan’s greatest moment was his appearance in the 2011 World Grand Prix Final, which he eventually lost to Phil “The Power” Taylor. It was in the run-up to the final that Dolan became the first player in the world to post a nine-dart finish in a double to start event.
Dolan has also managed semi-final appearances at the European Championships in 2012 and the PDC World Cup of Darts in 2014. He has won some smaller competitions including the PDPA Players Championship in Barnsley, Wigan and Ireland in 2013, 2014 and 2013/2014 respectively as well as the Ulster Open in 2008. He has yet to win the Northern Ireland Open.
The 2012 Northern Ireland Open winner has also managed some success on the international darts circuit. Gurney or “Dude” as he is known, was born in Derry and started playing darts in 2004. He has managed last 16 finishes at the BDO World Championship in 2009 and 2010 as well as making the final of the WDC Europe Cup Singles event in 2008. Over and above his Northern Ireland Open win, Gurney has won three other tournaments. These are the English Masters (2012), Ireland Players Championship (2014) and the Tom Kirby Memorial Trophy (2012, 2014).
Northern Ireland in International Competitions
Since the 1980’s, Northern Ireland has held a very strong ranking in the DDB Country Ranking system. In fact, the country has never been out of the top 30, with a highest ranking of 5 achieved during 1985 and 1986. Currently, Northern Ireland are ranked 12th in the world.
The country has always performed admirably on the international stage. It reached the quarter-finals of BDO World Championship in 1982 and 1985, the last 32 of the PDC World Championships in 2004, 2009-2015 and the semi-finals of the PDC World Cup of Darts in 2014.
The best individual achievement by a Northern Ireland darts player was Mitchell Crookes’ win at the WDF Europe Singles Cup in 2000.
Woman’s and Youth Darts in Northern Ireland
Both women and youth Darts feature strongly throughout the region. Many woman’s leagues are found all over the country with the premier international event, the Northern Ireland Woman’s Open held annually. Perhaps the most famous female darts player to emerge from Northern Ireland is Denise Cassidy. She won the Women’s WDF Europe Cup in 1998 and the Woman’s Northern Ireland Open in 2010.
Youth level darts take place throughout the country at under-18 level and include the Northern Ireland Youth Masters and the Northern Ireland Youth Individuals as part of the eight events throughout the year. The top four boys and top two girls filling the ranking points at the end of each season go on to form the Northern Ireland Junior Darts Team that take part in the annual Europe Youth Cup.