World Grand Prix - PDC preview
The 2009 World Grand Prix begins on Monday, with 32 players battling for the £100,000 first prize at the Citywest Hotel IECC.
The unique double-start event will be played from 5-11 October, with a tournament-record £350,000 in prize money on offer during the seven days, which are screened live on Sky Sports.
Defending champion Phil Taylor opens his bid for a record-extending ninth World Grand Prix title on Monday's opening night, taking on Northern Ireland's Brendan Dolan.
Taylor has dominated the tournament since its inception in 1998, claiming an eighth win with a 6-2 victory over Raymond van Barneveld in the final last year.
However, his three defeats have all come in the short, best-of-three set first round - against Kevin Painter in 2001, Andy Callaby in 2004 and Adrian Gray in 2007 - and Taylor admits he will need to be on form immediately at the Citywest Hotel
"It's a format that challenges us all and I'm looking forward to it," said Taylor, who took victory in the Virgin Atlantic South African Masters to warm up in style for the visit to Ireland.
"Brendan's a quality player and in a short format if he hits his doubles that can put you under a lot of pressure.
"But I'm in good form at the moment, I'm having a successful year and looking to retain this title. It will be a tough challenge."
The opening night will also see world number four John Part, the runner-up in 2002 and 2003, take on 2004 World Grand Prix winner Colin Lloyd, while Terry Jenkins faces the rejuvenated Wayne Mardle.
Debutant Paul Nicholson meets Wayne Jones in the night's opening game, while Donaghadee's John MaGowan - the 68-year-old who reached the quarter-finals in 2005 - has drawn Scottish newcomer Gary Anderson.
Five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld has not competed since the summer's stanjames.com World Matchplay, but reached last year's World Grand Prix final following a similar sabbatical.
"I've had good break this summer and am feeling refreshed," said van Barneveld.
"I have been working hard in the gym and in practice recently, and I've been practising with Vincent van der Voort and Toon Greebe in Holland.
"The World Grand Prix is always very challenging because of the unique format of double-in and double-out. It's an extra challenge and extra pressure for us all.
"But I've done quite well in this event in the past and hopefully I can give myself a great chance of winning this week.
"It's been two years since I won the Las Vegas Desert Classic, my last title on TV, and I'd love to win another TV tournament."
Van Barneveld takes on Alan Tabern in the first round on Tuesday, a night which also features 2007 champion James Wade, who meets two-time World Champion Dennis Priestley.
"It's always a challenge playing Dennis but I'm really excited going into this event," said Wade. "It's a great test for all players and I enjoy it.
"I felt I played pretty well to reach the South African Masters last week and hopefully I can build on that in Dublin."
Tuesday's games also include the all-Irish clash between Mick McGowan and Jacko Barry, who live only a couple of miles apart in the towns of Balbriggan and Stamullen, north of Dublin.
"When I first joined the PDC, Mick took me under his wing and looked after me in the first couple of months until I knew what I was doing," said Barry.
"We still travel together when we go away to tournaments but for that half hour or so on Tuesday, though, the friendship will go out of the window!"
McGowan has slipped out of the world's top 32 in the last 18 months following a loss of form and a battle with a blood disorder, but believes he can begin to climb back up the rankings with a good run in the World Grand Prix.
"It's been a horrible 18 months to be honest and this is a great chance for me to kick-start things," said McGowan.
"I've been putting a lot of work in and a lot of practice over the last six to eight weeks to get ready for this and I'm feeling really confident.
"I'm probably looking forward to this more than I have any tournament in the last 18 months because I've had health problems but got the all-clear now and am feeling really fit and really good again."
Another high-profile first round game will see UK Open runner-up Colin Osborne face world number seven Mervyn King, a semi-finalist in the 2008 World Grand Prix who hit a nine-dart finish in the South African Masters last Sunday.
The event's second round will be played across Wednesday and Thursday, with the quarter-finals in one session on Friday night.
Saturday evening sees the semi-finals take place, with the tournament culminating in the final on Sunday, with players competing for the event's first £100,000 first prize.
The tournament this year will be staged in the brand new Citywest Hotel International Event and Conference Centre arena, doubling the capacity to 3,000 fans per session.
- David Allen
- PDC Media Officer