Menace aims for his third world title
Published Date: 16 December 2008
AT the oche, the year has been good to Dennis Priestley. Putting aside his continued battle with prostate cancer, the elder statesman of the PDC has shown that he still has what it takes to compete with the big boys.
Three tour titles and two semi final appearances in major tournaments have marked one of the most successful year^s in the Mexborough Menace^s long and prestigious career. Defying both odds and expectations has been the order of business for the 58-year-old in 2008. How about a third world title to crown the year?
Twelve months ago Priestley postponed an operation for prostate cancer after doctors informed him that he would miss the PDC^s showpiece event at the Alexandra Palace. He took to the stage to meet Essex qualifier Steve Maish in the first round, but it was not the same Menace that had shone so brightly in the Premier League months earlier.
Clearly more important matters were on his mind and, although he demonstrated his top drawer abilities at times, he did not have enough to beat Maish who will not have played a better game for some time.
A lot has happened since then for the veteran. In the New Year he went under the knife and spent three months in recovery at his Church Street home. His first tournament back saw him plough through the competition and fatigue to reach the last 16.
Two months later he stormed to the semi finals of the US Open in only his third tournament appearance of the year, losing out only to the untouchable Phil Taylor. Three tour titles and a semi final appearance at the World Matchplay in Blackpool followed in a remarkable latter half of 2008 for Priestley.
Each Christmas brings the pinnacle of the PDC calendar, the World Championships which has quickly crafted a home for itself at the Ally Pally. And there are few left who doubt Priestley^s credentials for a third world title.
On Saturday The Menace meets the winner of the preliminary round clash between New Zealand representative Warren French and Japan^s hope Akihiro Nagakawa. A simple task, it would appear, but memories of Maish last year will linger.
Victory in the first round will present Priestley with the challenge of either Chris Mason or John MaGowan on December 29 while the likes of Adrian Lewis, Adrian Gray, Colin Osbourne, Vincent van der Voort and James Wade could stand in the way before the semi final stage on January 3.
Priestley would not meet persistent foe Taylor, as well as former champion Raymond van Barneveld and current holder John Part, until at least the semi final stage. Taylor vanquished The Menace in the final four of both the US Open and the World Matchplay. Could it be time for revenge?
The big question this year is who can stop The Power? After a 2007 to forget where his phenomenal star seemed to be on the fade, Taylor has taken no prisoners in 2008 and is a justified favourite to claim his 14th world title. The bookies put him at odds on and few could blame them.
With 21 tour titles in 2008 alone, including three of the four majors played so far and other high profile events such as the Grand Slam of Darts, the Las Vegas Desert Classic, the Premier League and the European Championships, Taylor has been in devastating form and seems unstoppable.
Previous winners Van Barneveld and Part have had quiet years while the rising star of James Wade has slowed his progress with only the UK Open win a highlight of a unmemorable year.
The PDC World Darts Championship begins tomorrow with Priestley taking to the oche at 3.30pm on Saturday which can be seen live on Sky Sports.
* Video highlights of Dennis Priestley^s matches at the World Championships will be available to view online on our website: www.southyorkshiretimes.co.uk (click the "Sports Videos" link).
Story By: South Yorkshire Times