Joe Cullen is facing the biggest weekend of his darting career.
The young Unicorn ace will be bidding for success in the first ever PDC Unicorn Under 21 World Championship, a prized place at the Grand Slam of Darts and two big performances in his chase for a place at the World Championship!
It’s all happening at the Barnsley Metrodome and for Cullen, quite simply, this weekend could catapult his career to another level.
Fresh from a fabulous win over the great Phil Taylor, Cullen is in the form of his life and he knows he has to take that momentum to South Yorkshire this weekend!
He is the No.2 seed for the Unicorn sponsored Under 21 World Championship, behind Holland’s Michael van Gerwen. 64 of the best young players will battle it out for a place in the final.
The last two standing will clinch places at the Grand Slam of Darts IV, a guaranteed Tour Card on the PDC Pro Tour and the chance to play the final at the Alexandra Palace ahead of the World Championship Final itself in the New Year!
And the young star from Bradford could get to the Ally Pally twice…..as well as his tilt at the Under 21 title, he is within touching distance of qualifying for the World Championship for the first time.
“It would be a dream for me,” he said. “I have worked really hard this year. The win over Phil Taylor was special, but to get to the Grand Slam and the World Championship would mean everything for me and my career.”
Under the Ally Pally qualification criteria, 16 players win places at the World Championship through the Players Championship Order of Merit……and as it stands at the moment, Cullen is in that 16th and final qualifying spot!
“There are four more Players Championship events to go before the cut-off,” he explained. “Two in Barnsley this weekend and two more in Derby at the end of the month….I said at the start of the year that £6,500 would be enough to get you to the World Championship and that looks like being the case.”
Cullen has won £5,800 in the Players Championship Order of Merit. He is £300 ahead of Matt Clark and £600 in front of Team Unicorn stablemate Kirk Shepherd in the race for the Alexandra Palace.
“Another £700 should do it but I am aiming for more than that. It literally means the world to me to get to the Ally Pally!” he said.
Cullen’s brilliant win over Taylor in a Players Championship event in Killarney last month stunned the darts world.
“It was some day,” he said. “The big disappointment was my performance against Colin Osborne in the quarter-finals. I had to play him five minutes after beating Taylor and to be honest, my head was all over the place.”
Cullen lost the opening leg against Taylor, but hit two 12 darters to move ahead, only for ‘The Power’ to win three on the spin to lead 4-2. The Unicorn youngster leveled again but fell 5-4 behind…..but with Taylor sat on a double, Cullen took out 100 in two darts to level and won the decider in some style. He hit a terrific 162 to leave D16 and although he missed D16 and D8 ‘by a mile’, Cullen nailed D4 for the biggest win of his career so far!
This weekend could eclipse beating Taylor, if he achieves his goals.
“I am nervous and excited all rolled into one,” he said. “But I am throwing well and feeling confident, so it’s up to me!”
Friday night sees the qualifier for the Grand Slam, with incredibly, nearly 280 players battling it out for just four places in Monday night’s GSOD draw.
From Team Unicorn, Andy Hamilton – who lost the first Grand Slam Final to Taylor – heads the list of those hoping to reach Wolverhampton. Wes Newton, who has won a Grand Slam qualifier, Kevin Painter, Jamie Caven and Peter Manley are among the other Unicorn stars in the draw.
On Saturday, it’s the Unicorn under 21 World Championship.
Unicorn youngsters Arron Monk and Sean White are seeded No.3 and No.8 respectively…..Keegan Brown, who has graduated through the Andover Darts Academy is also involved, as is young Jack Marriner from the Unicorn sponsored Petersfield Darts Academy.
And you can keep in touch with all the action from the four big tournaments over the weekend, right here on the Unicorn website
By STUART PYKE (twitter @stuartpykesport)
Photo courtesy Lawrence Lustig / PDC