McCoy's Premier League Star Tackles Ulster Quartet!
The stars of the McCoy's Premier League Darts warmed up for the start of this year's season at the Odyssey Arena on Thursday night by giving a master-class to four giants of Ulster Rugby.
Reigning McCoy's Premier League Darts champion Phil Taylor, World Championship finalist Michael van Gerwen and their rivals in the ten-player event all visited Ulster's Ravenhill Stadium on Wednesday ahead of the event's opening night in Belfast 24 hours later.They were joined by Ulster's Irish international stars Stephen Ferris, Dan Tuohy and Paddy Wallace as well as American-born prop Callum Black as the rugby stars stepped up to the oche. The quartet broke off from their preparations for Friday's Rabodirect Pro12 clash with the Ospreys to get tips and advice from the ten biggest names in darts.
"It was great to meet the Stephen, Dan, Callum and Paddy and have a throw with them," said Taylor, who opens his challenge for a seventh McCoy's Premier League title against van Gerwen in Belfast
"I'd much rather take them on at darts than out on the rugby field! Hopefully when they go back to playing darts with their team-mates they'll have an advantage now. Playing darts is a great way for their squad to have some fun together, especially on away trips, and it's great to see their enthusiasm for the game."
The increase to ten players in the 2013 Premier League has led to the introduction of relegation for the bottom two players after Week Nine, before the remaining eight players continue their battle for Play-Off places.
Taylor added: "I'm really looking forward to the McCoy's Premier League season and to play Michael in my first game is fantastic because it will be a brilliant game. The last time we played was in the World Championship final and that was one of the hardest matches I've ever had in my career. It's great to see Michael in the Premier League this year but the field as a whole is stronger than ever - it's going to be a memorable season."
"Every week's going to be like a final and we're all looking to make a good start because, with two players being relegated after nine weeks, it's a big challenge for every player. There's some fresh faces and I'm looking forward to seeing how they cope on the Premier League stage because they're great arenas and massive nights."
Taylor and van Gerwen were joined by Adrian Lewis, Raymond van Barneveld, James Wade, Simon Whitlock, Wes Newton, Andy Hamilton, Gary Anderson and Robert Thornton in meeting the Ulster stars ahead of the Premier League's opening night.
"Bringing in relegation's a great idea but it really cranks up the pressure for all of us," said Adrian Lewis, the 2011 Premier League finalist and a two-time World Champion.
"The Ulster players know all about playing to avoid relegation or elimination from events so it was good to chat to them - but hopefully I won't be needing any advice! I'm really excited about the Premier League and, coming into the tournament on the back of winning the World Cup last weekend, my confidence is high, so I can't wait to get up on stage."
"It would be great to get a good start in Belfast but I know I've got a tough game against Simon Whitlock. He reached the final last year and he's a fantastic player who seems to come into his own in this tournament, so I've got my work cut out - but I'm up for the challenge."
Debutant Robert Thornton, the 2012 UK Open champion, will play Andy Hamilton in the opening game of the McCoy's Premier League Darts as he celebrates his inclusion in the tournament.
"It's going to be a different experience for me and I'll just take one match at a time and enjoy it," said Thornton. "Being on stage anywhere is special, but it's even more so when you're playing alongside these great players in the Premier League. I might be the lowest ranked player, but everyone's beatable. We all miss doubles and we all have off days, and hopefully I can do well."
Another new face, Fleetwood's world number seven Wes Newton, then makes his Premier League debut in the night's second game as he faces 2009 champion James Wade.
"I can't wait to get up for the first game of the season," he said. "I've been to watch the Premier League a few times in the past and the atmosphere is totally different to other events I've played in so it will be whole new experience for me. It's something I wanted so much and I've finally got it so I'm over the moon. I suppose it will finally seem real when I go up on stage for the first time."
2011 champion Gary Anderson will then meet five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld, and 2012 runner-up Simon Whitlock then takes on Lewis before Taylor and van Gerwen - the other new face in this year's event - clash in a repeat of January's World Championship final.
The McCoy's Premier League Darts will be played at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast on Thursday February 7, as the tournament begins its three-month tour of the UK & Ireland's biggest arenas.
The tournament, featuring ten players and a £520,000 prize fund, will also visit Aberdeen, Bournemouth, Exeter, Nottingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Glasgow, Brighton, Sheffield, Dublin, Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle in the league stage before four players contest the Play-Offs at The O2 in London on Thursday May 16.
McCoy's Premier League Darts
Night One - Thursday February 7
Odyssey Arena, Belfast
Andy Hamilton v Robert Thornton
James Wade v Wes Newton
Raymond van Barneveld v Gary Anderson
Simon Whitlock v Adrian Lewis
Phil Taylor v Michael van Gerwen
Live on Sky Sports HD from 7pm