Carlow’s Steve Lennon produced the biggest shock of the 2022 PDC World Darts Championship on Friday afternoon as he stormed to an impressive 3-1 victory against last year’s quarter-finalist Krzysztof Ratajski.
The win was an historic one for the local darts player as he finally progressed past the second round of the sport’s biggest and most lucrative tournament.
Lennon got off to the perfect start in the final game of Friday’s opening session as he was afforded the opportunity to miss four darts at the double before eventually taking out D5 to hold throw and claim the first leg.
A strong start continued into the second leg as he broke the Polish star with a confident D14.
That was the end of assured finishes for the Irishman in the first set, however, as he missed ten set darts in the third leg to hand the initiative to his opponent.
A Ratajski hold of throw left a last leg shoot out for the crucial first set and Lennon held his nerve at the fourth time of asking to take out D5 and go 1-0 ahead. A pivotal moment in the game as one of Ireland’s finest throwers never relinquished his lead throughout his best performance of 2021 to date.
Ratajski kicked off the second set with a 12-dart leg as he showed exactly why he was the number 12 seed and among the contenders coming into this tournament.
Lennon rued two missed darts to level the set as Ratajski, making his first appearance on the Alexandra Palace stage this year, took out a 132 to go 2-0 ahead before he closed out the set with D10 to make it 1-1 at the break.
Lennon held throw after he took out D16 in a high quality opening leg in the third set and two back-to-back 180s set up a D10 that allowed him some respite by breaking throw for the first time since the second leg of an enthralling tie between two evenly matched players.
The 28-year-old Irishman wrapped up the third set with a D10 after both players went agonisingly close to 100+ finishes with a 160 for Lennon and a 152 for Ratajski almost on the cards.
2-1 up, the 2019 World Cup finalist continued to maintain his incredibly high level as he got hold of the darts with a first leg break of throw and his heavy scoring was too much for Ratajski to handle as he took out D10 to move within a single leg of the third round for the first time in his career.
‘The Polish Eagle’, who regularly finds himself in the latter stages of darts’ biggest competitions, made it 2-1 with a solid leg to pile the pressure on Lennon ahead of the fourth leg of the set.
Lennon was not to be denied the greatest victory of his career, however, as he composed himself to hit his third match dart at D10 and book his place in the third round.
Thanks to yesterday’s victory against Latvia’s Madars Razma and today’s triumph over Ratajski, Lennon will now take part in the post-Christmas proceedings in North London with his third round opponent yet to be confirmed.
Elsewhere, Ireland’s Keane Barry and William O’Connor defeated Royden Lam and Danny Lauby respectively with both games finishing 3-2 in favour of the Irish men.
Former Word Youth Championship winner Barry now faces Premier League champion Jonny Clayton on Sunday evening while Limerick’s O’Connor takes on former BDO World champion Glen Durrant on Wednesday.