Daryl Gurney interview: SuperChin defies negative thinking to move two steps away from Premier League Darts glory

Daryl Gurney defeated Michael van Gerwen (Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Daryl Gurney defeated Michael van Gerwen (Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

In a world where many of the leading sports men and women prescribe to positive thinking, motivational mottos and sports psychology, it seems incredible that you can also reach the top by doing the complete opposite.

Daryl Gurney doesn't believe he should be ranked as high as three in the PDC Order of Merit despite to a superb couple of years in which he's won two major TV titles, and on Thursday night he's taking part in the Premier League Play-Offs for the first time in his career.

The Northern Irishman's second season in this tournament wasn't going too well in early March when he slumped to just the 10th whitewash in Premier League history against James Wade - a week after a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Rob Cross.

But after fighting from 6-3 down to draw with Peter Wright seven days later, SuperChin went on to become the second player ever to do the 'regular season double' over defending champion Michael van Gerwen during a run of six wins and two draws in his final 10 games to snatch a spot at the O2.

He rated last Thursday's 8-3 triumph over Michael Smith in Leeds as highly as his performances in the finals of the 2017 World Grand Prix and 2018 Players Championship Finals in terms of dealing with intense pressure and overcoming his negative thoughts.

Afterwards, he said: "I'm one of these players who's always negative, I always have a negative look on things. I could be world champion and win every single tournament but I'd still go to the next event and think 'oh, who am I playing now, he'll probably beat me.' It stops me getting carried away I guess and I'll try my hardest in the practice room."

Gurney doesn't expect his mindset to change any time soon and on the eve of Finals Night, he told Sporting Life Darts: "Obviously I still think I'm a good darts player but do I think I'm number three in the world? Probably not, because I still haven't shown my best.

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"As I get more and more experience of doing this then hopefully I'll get even better. Even though I've been in the PDC for seven years, it's only been the last two and a half that I've been on TV regularly - so I've got a bit to go. There's a lot of areas I've still got to improve.

"I'm still as nervous before big games as I always have, but with more experience you can control it more and bring the heart rate down.

"There's been one or two people who've mentioned sports phycology to me but I don't feel I need to go down that route.

"Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't rule out a session or two in the future if I think it would help me but in the meantime I'm still doing OK the way it is."

He certainly is, but on Thursday night he has to make history just to reach the final by becoming the first player to beat van Gerwen three times in a Premier League campaign.

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Gurney's triumphs over the four-time champion, who topped the regular season table for a seventh season in a row, was his third in succession in all competitions having defeated him in that epic climax to the Players Championship Finals last November and although he lost their most recent meeting on the European Tour, he's clearly learned how to deal with MVG after a winless run of 13 encounters.

SuperChin said: "It was great to do the double over Michael van Gerwen as I know some people would have said the Players Championship Finals was a fluke or a one off.

"Before then I'd thrown too fast and tried too hard against him so I learned from that to go at my pace."

His successes haven't been van Gerwen's only low points this season but Gurney feels this is purely because of the rising standards of players as a whole. He said: "Darts is getting so good nowadays that anyone can average around 100 and win any game - but in the next they can average 90 and get bit.

"The standard and consistency have improved across the board so I don't think it's anything Michael is doing wrong."

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Gurney is the outsider of the four remaining players remaining and certainly isn't getting carried away with thoughts of claiming the most lucrative title of his career.

And not even lifting this trophy will improve his belief for the months ahead.

He said: "I just take each game at a time. There's two games to win it and the only time I'll think about the trophy is if there's a double for it.

"Other than that, I'm still as far away as lifting it as I was back in February.

"If I get beat in the semi-finals, final or if I win it, I don't think I'll be in any different frame of mind when it comes to the next major tournament."

That run of momentum in the Premier League also coincided with the 33-year-old winning his fourth PDC title - and first on the European Tour - at the German Darts Championship and he feels he's reaping the rewards of being more selective in his tournaments.

Gurney said: "One of my goals has been to complete the set of titles - a Pro Tour, a major and a European Tour - and I achieved that this year. I was over the moon because there's been a few times where I got to the semi final or the final but couldn't get over the line. This time everything went to plan and I stayed consistent as much as possible over both days.

"Every event means something whether it's on the Pro Tour, a major or the Premier League - I don't take anything lightly. But last year I felt I did too much from February to the summer and burnt myself out for the World Matchplay so this year I've missed four Pro Tour events, although the plan has always been to do all the Europeans.

"If I feel tired I'm going to miss a couple more Pro Tours. For me to do my job to the best I can, I do need to take time off. And I know that's a luxury compared to other jobs."

Who will become Premier League Darts champion on Thursday night?
Click on the image for our predictions ahead of Finals Night

2019 Premier League Darts Table

  1. Van Gerwen P 16 W 10 D 3 L 3 LegD +40 Pts 23
  2. Cross P 16 W 10 D 2 L 4 LegD +26 Pts 22
  3. Wade P 16 W 7 D 6 L 3 LegD +20 Pts 20
  4. Gurney P 16 W 8 D 3 L 5 LegD +7 Pts 19
  5. Price P 16 W 6 D 6 L 4 LegD +6 Pts 18
  6. Suljovic P 16 W 7 D 3 L 6 LegD +5 Pts 17
  7. Smith P 16 W 3 D 4 L 9 LegD -26 Pts 10
  8. Wright P 16 W 2 D 5 L 9 LegD -33 Pts 9
  9. Relegated: Van Barneveld P 9 W 1 D 2 L 6 LegD -22 Pts 4

Finals Night fixtures

Play-Offs - Thursday May 23
The O2, London
TV Channel: Sky Sports (1900 GMT)

Semi-Finals (Best of 19 legs)

  • Michael van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney
  • Rob Cross v James Wade

Finals (Best of 21 legs)

  • Winner SF 1 v Winner SF 2
  • Tickets: 0844 856 0202 or click here

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