Liam Gallagher and Keane Barry will contest the Tom Kirby Memorial Irish Matchplay final in Dublin on Saturday and with a World Championship spot on offer for the winner, both players are relishing their big stage opportunity.
The young duo will compete for Ireland’s top domestic honour in a best-of-11 leg tie – live on BreakingNews Sports from 7.15pm – ahead of this year’s World Grand Prix showpiece, and the caveat of World Championship qualification simply adds to the occasion.
The pair, with a combined age of just 40, are both within touching distance of the biggest win of their careers after coming through the Irish Matchplay’s early rounds in Tramore last month.
October 12, 2019, 7:15pm
Two-time World Youth Masters finalist Barry is already featuring at Alexandra Palace this year in the JDC Junior World Championship final, although now he’s bidding to claim a spot in the biggest event on the darting calendar.
The 17-year-old, who recently scooped the JDC Junior International Open in Gibraltar, has performed with aplomb on the PDC Development Tour this term – reaching one final, three semi-finals and two quarter-finals.
Former winners of the prestigious Tom Kirby title include two-time major winner Daryl Gurney, World Cup finalist William O’Connor, Pro Tour winner Mickey Mansell and Mick McGowan, who claimed back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016.
Barry, who is also assured of a spot in this year’s World Youth Championship, is in confident mood as he looks to follow in the footsteps of his more established countrymen.
“I’m actually really looking forward to it, it’s a new experience I think for both of us and you’ve got to take it in and try to take your opportunity on Saturday night,” Barry told the Darts Show Podcast.
“I’m playing well but I’m not really going to let it get to me [pressure]. I’m playing well at the minute so I’m going to take it like just another game.
“I’m preparing the same way I’ve prepared for every other competition. It’s just a bit more pressure with the stage and what’s at stake.
“When you get up there on Saturday night you know it’s a big opportunity for both of us and whoever does win, it’s a big opportunity at the start of your career so hopefully we’ll keep going from there really.”
The 23-year-old Gallagher, not to be confused with his Oasis namesake, has been competing on the PDC Development Tour since 2014 and also qualified for next month’s World Youth Championship by virtue of reaching last month’s Irish Youth Matchplay final.
‘The Tornardo’ enjoyed the perfect preparation for Saturday’s showpiece last week, landing a nine-dart finish in an open event in Northern Ireland.
Gallagher, who made his Pro Tour debut as a 16-year-old in 2012, told BreakingNews Sports that he is hoping to produce a similarly supersonic performance at the Citywest. “It’s hitting home now,” he admitted.
“When we got to the final it was like ‘Oh we’re going to be on stage’ and it will be a great opportunity, but when we got the news it would be on BreakingNews Sports, it added a little bit more to it.
Tom Kirby Memorial Irish Matchplay – Roll of Honour
“I really can’t wait. It’s going to be a good experience regardless of the result.
“I’ve been watching [darts] since the Circus Tavern and Ally Pally is just unbelievable. It’s a dream come true for any player.
“Both of us have got a great chance to get there so hopefully it’s me, if not I wish Keane the best of luck.”
As Gallagher’s comments indicate, the pair are close friends away from the oche – although with a World Championship place at stake – sentiment will be out of the window, temporarily at least.
“It’s hard playing when you’re friends but when you’re playing on the stage both of us know there are no friends, but afterwards we will just go back to normal again,” Barry added.
“I think the two of us have great respect for each other, we both know how good we are. Playing your friend is going to be that little bit tougher but we both know what we have to do.”
There’s a conveyor belt of exciting talent coming through the darting ranks at present, with 13-year-old Leighton Bennett inevitably claiming plenty of headlines for his remarkable exploits.
Nevertheless, Barry is also making waves and Gallagher insists that his younger compatriot deserves the plaudits that are coming his way.
Gallagher said: “After the final we’re going to be cheering each other on for the Worlds [Youth Championship] in November, so hopefully one of us will do well in that. We’ll go back to friends after but on the stage there are no friends.
“He is [getting headlines] and rightfully so though, he’s playing good darts and he’s putting himself on the map.
“He’s taken the opportunities he’s been given and fair play to him. Saturday is a different ball-game all together. We’ll see who wins then.”
Coverage of the Irish Matchplay Final gets underway on Saturday from 7.15pm on BreakingNews Sports Action. That will be followed by live coverage of the World Grand Prix Final on BreakingNews Sports Action and Main Event at 8pm.