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Wright brings festive cheer and opens title defence on a high, Meath teenager bows out at Ally Pally

It really is Christmas now…

Snakebite x The Grinch: Peter Wright was in the festive spirit.
Snakebite x The Grinch: Peter Wright was in the festive spirit.
Image: PA

MEATH TEENAGER KEANE Barry bowed out, while Peter Wright came dressed as the Grinch and stole Steve West’s Alexandra Palace dream as his World Championship defence got off to a winning start.

The Scot had vowed to put on a show in what will be the only day of the sport’s flagship tournament that is played in front of a crowd and he lived up to his word in traditionally eccentric style.

He was in his element, kitting out in a bright green outfit in homage to the Christmas character, complete with matching beard, mohawk and flights.

The 2020 champion might have come dressed for a party but he meant business, taking West out 3-1 at the Alexandra Palace.

Snakebite surged into a 2-0 lead before West, who had already beaten Amit Gilitwala in the first round earlier in the evening, threatened a comeback by taking the third set on Wright’s throw.

But the 50-year-old, who has been playing with a rib injury, regained his composure and hit straight back, fittingly winning with a double 10 – just as he did in the 2020 final on New Year’s Day.

“Cheer up everyone, it’s Christmas!” Wright said on Sky Sports. “The two darts were near enough exactly the same.

“When I hit the first one I thought, ‘This is exactly like to win it’.

“Steve didn’t play his game like he can. It is hard when you have already played, he has been here hours and hours before me in preparation for his game. I got away with it. I have got stuff to work on.”

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Wright, who admitted before the tournament that he had been “miserable” playing in behind closed doors events, will now not play again until after Christmas, much to his dismay.

“I am annoyed I am not playing before Christmas, I wanted to wear another Christmas outfit.”

Steve Beaton’s 30th successive appearance at the World Championships ended on the first night as he was surprisingly beaten 3-0 by Diogo Portela in the first round, while Jeff Smith beat Irishman Barry 3-1.

The 18-year-old, who was competing at the biggest event in the sport’s calendar year for the second time, hit 180 as he won the opening leg but he was left to rue missed chances as Canadian veteran Smith was much more clinical from there.

“I’m happy with that win tonight. When I got drawn against Keane I knew it would be a tough match and he put me under real pressure there,” Smith said afterwards. “It’s been a fantastic year for me on the board, even with all the restrictions. Kudos to the PDC for putting the tournament on at all.”

Duleek native Barry earned his PDC tour card last September, and will play on the professional circuit in 2021 having enjoyed a meteoric rise up to now.

Irish attention focuses to Limerick’s Willie O’Connor now, who faces Niels Zonneveld from Holland this afternoon, the prize being a second-round meeting with Derry’s Daryl Gurney tomorrow.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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