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Duleek Dynamite: 17-year-old Irish prodigy ready to make his mark on World Darts Championship

Meath’s Keane Barry is the youngest player at this year’s World Championships.

Barry: makes his Ally Pally debut on Monday evening.
Barry: makes his Ally Pally debut on Monday evening.
Image: Imago/PA Images

ON MONDAY NIGHT, 17-year-old Keane Barry from Duleek in County Meath will step forward and make his debut at the biggest event in darts, the PDC World Championships.

Like most sports stars who manage to make it onto the world stage, Barry started early. Given his choice of sport, it raised a few safety concerns for his parents.

“I threw my first darts when I was four, which I suppose is a bit mad.

“Dad had a room in our house with a bar, pool table and dart board in it, real Celtic Tiger stuff. He was a very good player and he would be in there trying to practice for a while on his own. But I’d follow him down and wreck his head until he let me join in.

“He’d make me stand in closer to the board for my own safety but as soon as he’d leave the room, I’d move back to the proper place and start throwing from there because I didn’t want to be any different than him.”

Unlike many young sporting protégés who are pushed hard by overbearing parents, Barry’s drive came very much from within.

“Dad would say that he had no need for an alarm clock because he’d hear the ‘thump, thump, thump’ of the three darts landing in the board from around 6.30 each morning. I just loved playing and couldn’t get enough of it.”

It didn’t take long for his enthusiasm to transform into precocious talent. 

“I hit my first 180 when I was five.

“At time I was only throwing at home because obviously I was too young to be going to pubs to play in tournaments.

“Then, when I turned eight, I played in my first proper adult tournament over in a quiet little pub in Tullyallen. In the first round I was drawn against a guy called Johnny Andrews who was one of the best players in the area.

“When I went 2-0 nil up everyone in the pub starting watching the match and cheering my name. Once I noticed the extra pressure I collapsed and he beat me 3-2. Hopefully I’ve learned to deal with the attention a bit better since then.”

Less than 10 years later and Barry has progressed to the biggest stage of them all. The event which is held at London’s Alexandra Palace, affectionately known as the ‘Ally Pally’, draws an attendance over 50,000 supporters each year and has become a staple of the Christmas TV schedule.

The first round draw has seen Barry paired against seasoned Dutchman Vincent van der Voort and while he will certainly be an underdog, he won’t be overawed. He comes into the game in fantastic form having recently hit a nine-dart finish on the development tour in a match where he finished with a 107.40 average. 

Little wonder then that the youngster is looking forward to his big opportunity.

“There’s no pressure on me which is great. He’s the favourite to win and really I have nothing to lose.

“Of course I’m going to be very nervous because I’m always nervous before I play but as soon I put my foot to the oche and throw that first dart, I’ll be fine. Everything else goes out of my head then.  It’s just me and the dart board and if I throw my best game I know I can cause a few upsets.

“But most importantly I’m going to make sure I enjoy the occasion because it’s such an iconic stage. Standing up there and playing, the same as the likes of Phil Taylor, [Michael] van Gerwen and all those boys have done. I just can’t wait for it.”

Nicknamed ‘Dynamite’, Barry’s choice of walk on music, AC/DC’s TNT, seems an apt selection.

“Yeah, it should really get the crowd going. I’ll just be concentrating on making sure I don’t fall up the steps or something stupid like that!”

The young Meath man will be the youngest player competing at this year’s World Championship. He will also become the third youngest player ever to appear, relegating current darts kingpin van Gerwen to fourth position. 

MVG and Barry are no strangers to each other, pairing up for practice recently at Dublin’s Citywest venue before each going on to win their respective finals later in the evening.

Their encounter lead the world number one to comment that Barry was a “phenomenally talented player”.

Regardless of how things go for Barry on Monday night, he is already assured of a second appearance at the Alexandra Palace venue later in the week, having also qualified for the Junior World Championship final which will be played on Saturday evening. 

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With that in mind, he has taken the opportunity to recharge the batteries over the last couple of weeks having had a hectic schedule over the second half of the year.

“I’ve taken the last two weeks off to get ready for the World Championship but prior to that I had been on the road for the last 12 or 13 weeks. You fly out on a Wednesday, throw from Thursday through to Sunday and then come home on the Monday for a couple of days before doing it all over again.

“I can’t complain because you’re getting to see so many parts of the world but it can take its toll on you too. Either Dad or Mam would always try to be with me and I’m lucky that my girlfriend is into darts as well so she’ll always come too.”

To classify Barry’s girlfriend as ‘into darts’ is somewhat of undersell. Barbora Hospodarska, from the Czech Republic, was the European darts champion in 2015. They met on tour and have been seeing each other for over a year now.

“We get on really well. She came over to my house for Christmas last year and we’ve been getting on like a house on fire ever since. The day of the junior final, 21 Dec, we’ll be together a year that day so that could be a good omen.”

Back at home in Duleek, Monday has been pencilled in as a big night with all the locals looking to get behind him.

“The support I’ve been getting from everybody around the town has been brilliant and they’ve all been telling me they’ll be watching. The pub I throw with, The Greyhound, are doing a drinks promotion and everything on the night so I think they’re expecting a big crowd in for it.”

Regardless of how things go for him this week, the future looks bright for Barry who is determined to fulfil his potential.

“If I can keep my head down and make the most of my talent in the years to come then there’s no reason why I shouldn’t believe that I can compete for World Championships in the future. That’s my dream and that’s why I’m throwing darts, to win trophies and titles.”

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About the author:

Shane Keegan

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