By Thomas O Connell
Irish darts fans will be glued to Sky Sports on Wednesday night as exciting Carlow prospect Steve Lennon makes his debut in the William Hill World Championship at Alexandra Palace, London. Steve faces off against world number thirteen, Michael “Bully Boy” Smith and, with a price of 9/4 to come out on top, it is clear that the young Irishman is coming into the competition with a bit of a reputation.
The former Kilkenny county thrower earned his professional tour card back in January when he came through the minefield of Q-School on the third day. Throughout the year he has been consistently reaching the latter stages of tournaments on the ProTour by competing against, and beating, the best players in the world. He has amassed over €40,000 in prize money throughout 2017 and this form saw him grab a spot in the World Championships by finishing inside the top 16 players on the tour not already ranked inside the top 32.
However, it has been at the business end of the year where the 24 year old has flourished and has appeared on the radar of darts fans around the world after some fantastic televised performances in the last couple of months.
In the Grand Slam of Darts in October, Lennon was flawless in his second game of the group as he overcame a shell-shocked Jamie Hughes 5-0. Solid performances against stars Raymond Van Barneveld and Gerwen Price lined him up for a quarter final clash with world number one and current world champion, Michael Van Gerwen. Lennon went down 10-3 and averaged 94 against the imperious dutchman but his big scoring and cool demeanor had begun to turn heads.
Steve continued his good form on television in November as he dispatched Austrian Zoran Lerchbacher in the Players Championship Finals in Minehead. Once again Steve ran into a massively in-form player in the shape of Rob Cross in the last 16. For the second time in as many months a top player has needed an average of over 100 to dispatch the classy Carlow flinger.
Darts is huge in Ireland at the moment. The Premier League nights in Dublin (12,000 capacity) and Belfast (11,000 capacity) sell out months in advance. The World Grand Prix in the Citywest Hotel brings a week of top darts every October to the thousands who attend.
Darts fans in Ireland have been following the careers of Mick McGowan and Willie O’Connor for over a decade and have been left frustrated that no other players from the emerald isle have stepped up to the oche on the biggest stages. They are crying out for a new hero.
Step forward Steve Lennon
Steve Lennon v Michael Smith, Sky Sports Darts (Ch 408) 7.15pm Wed 20th Dec 2017