Brendan Dolan won his first PDC title in 488 days on day one of the second PDC Super Series after defeating Michael Smith 8-6 in the final of Players Championship 5.
The Northern Irish star produced arguably his finest ever day of darts as he scooped the £10,000 title in the first of four Players Championship events being staged at the Marshall Arena this week.
The History Maker looked in fantastic form all day, eventually defeating Michael Smith 8-6 in the final to win Players Championship 5.
It helps solidify his place in the World Matchplay qualification spots and moves him back to number 33 in the world.
Dolan delights on day one of Super Series
Not many people expected Dolan to be in the final of the first day of Super Series action. However, The History Maker produced a fantastic display to take home his first title since November 2019.
Dolan started brilliantly, firing in a personal best record 111.2 average to defeat Jason Lowe. He then went on to beat Jamie Hughes 6-2, before dispatching the World Number One Gerwyn Price by the same score line.
Averages of 106.4 and 109.5 saw him beat Damon Heta and Scott Mitchell to make the semi-finals, before coming through against Joe Cullen 7-4, dropping just 18 legs in his six games on route to the final.
Smith had been a back-to-back Players Championship winner in the PDC Winter Series last year, and enjoyed his best run so far in 2021 as he soared into the final.
Bully Boy had dropped just 14 legs before the final, and five of them were in his first-round match against Gavin Carlin. He then went onto drop only three legs in his next four matches, with his displays including a 106 average as he defeated Lisa Ashton 6-0 to follow an earlier whitewash of Luke Woodhouse.
He also overcame Berry van Peer and Ryan Searle but was taken all the way to a deciding leg for a second time in the day at the semi-final stage before edging past Alan Soutar averaging 11 points higher than his Scottish opponent to book his spot in the decider against Dolan.
The final started cagey, with both holding throw three times in the first six legs. Bully Boy however struck the first blow, taking out 20 with Dolan on double 16 to move 4-3 ahead. The Northern Irishman though responded brilliantly, hitting 82 for an 11-dart immediate break back to level once more.
Both players then held twice, leading the match to get to 6-6, before missing darts to take the 13th leg. Dolan cleaned up 40, to go within one of the title. The 14th leg was a similar story, as both players missed chances. When Smith could not hit double 16 to force a decider, Dolan cleaned up 26 on double four with his final dart in hand, to get over the line and win a title that few saw coming.
Dolan determined to fight his way back up the world rankings
Dolan's last tournament wins had come with a brace of Players Championship titles in 2019, and he is determined to force his way back into the world's top 32 as this year progresses.
"I've changed a few things," admitted a delighted Dolan to PDC reporter Dan Dawson. "I want to win tournaments and you need a bit of luck on the day, and possibly somewhere along the line I've had a bit of luck.”
"I know I've played well to beat these people [today] but that's what I do in practice. People don't believe you because you can't produce it where it counts, and I'm trying to do what I do in practice here."
"I felt today that my performance level, my scoring was a lot better. I've won ProTours before and my finishing was clinical but today I thought I thoroughly deserved it.”
"The standard was good at the top when I first started, but now it's that good at the bottom so you have to raise your game.”
"I want to win more. I'm fed up with just taking part, and for a few years I was happy just to be here with the best in the world. Now I'm not happy to do that, I want to be better than them."
What else happened?
Alan Soutar continues to impress after winning his Tour Card at Q-School. Following a last 16 exit at the UK Open, he made his first maiden PDC semi-final.
The Scotsman began by beating American Danny Baggish, then followed with wins over the current Premier League Champion Glen Durrant, young Scottish prospect William Borland, European Champion Peter Wright and World Grand Prix finalist Dirk van Duijvenbode before losing to Smith in a last leg decider. It also means he’s in contention to qualify for the World Matchplay in his first year.
Joe Cullen once again made the semi-final and continued The Rockstar’s good start to the year which had already seen him pick up a Pro Tour tittle. He found some monster averages with a 111 in his last 32 win over Max Hopp and 105 in his quarter final defeat of Ryan Joyce, before losing to eventual winner Dolan 7-4 ending his bid to win a second Players Championship of 2021.
Van Duijvenbode was another player in fine form as PDC Super Series 2 began, averaging 112.7 in his last 16 defeat of Mensur Suljovic to follow earlier averages of 109.9, 102.7 and 106.9 as the Dutchman reached the quarterfinals.
The last eight line-up was completed by 2020 Players Championship event winners Searle and Joyce and former Lakeside Champion Scott Mitchell, in his best run since winning a Tour Card last month.
Four-time Women's World Champion Ashton reached the last 16 for the second time on the PDC ProTour as she defeated Nathan Aspinall, Aaron Beeney and Adrian Lewis hitting a fantastic checkout with two bulls on Tuesday, before losing out to Smith.
Finally, Darius Labanauskas reached the last 16 to move into the provisional World Matchplay qualifying spots.
The craze of nine-darters continues
Tuesday's tournament saw Ritchie Edhouse and Wayne Jones achieve nine-dart finishes to continue the trend of perfect legs in each of this year's Players Championship events.
Players Championship 5 Results (Selected)
Joe Cullen 6-4 Ryan Joyce
Brendan Dolan 6-3 Scott Mitchell
Michael Smith 6-2 Ryan Searle
Alan Soutar 6-5 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Brendan Dolan 7-4 Joe Cullen
Michael Smith 7-6 Alan Soutar
Brendan Dolan 8-6 Michael Smith