The inaugural Islands International darts competition took place at the St Pierre Park Hotel in Guernsey recently.
Players representing the Isle of Man, Republic of Ireland, Jersey and Guernsey battled it out in teams of seven women and 13 men.
The women’s team featured six of the top seven players from the previous season’s ranking tables: Margaret Kelly, Nikki Bardsley, Wendy Andrews, Janine Halsall, Rachel Robertson and debutant Sophie Hicklin, with Sophie Moore stepping in to complete the team.
Because of costs and other commitments, the men’s team featured only five players from the previous season’s top 13 in the island rankings: Mark Venables, Alan Young, Willie Biggane, Tony Kennaugh and Walter McCarthy.
The absence of many established names gave an opportunity for some upcoming young players and steady old hands to step in and complete the team.
Youngsters Jack Saxon, Ryan Teare and Jak Stott were joined by wily veterans Steve Moran and Ben Brogan, with John Halsall, Robbie Lawson and Kevin Biggane completing the line-up.
First up were the women and they got off to a great start, with Andrews and captain Kelly both winning their games 3-0 to put the Isle of Man into an early lead.
Unfortunately, the match then slipped away as Bardsley lost the next match before four consecutive 3-2 losses left the island on the wrong end of a 5-2 scoreline in a match that could have easily gone the other way but for some missed doubles at key moments.
Men’s match one - Isle of Man 6-7 Guernsey
For the men it was a similar story as they raced out of the blocks, with Young kicking things off with a 3-0 win, followed by Kennaugh and Moran both winning 3-1 to put the Isle of Man three.
But Guernsey pulled it back to 3-3, as the Manx side was again on the wrong side of a couple of last-leg deciders. Captain Venables and Brogan got the team back on track with 3-1 wins either side of a 3-2 defeat for Lawson, leaving the score at 5-4.
After McCarthy lost a close game, Saxon put the IoM back in front with a superb debut performance to win 3-0. But the last two games went the way of Guernsey, allowing them to sneak a 7-6 win.
Women’s match two – Isle of Man 1-6 Republic of Ireland
The Irish women were very impressive all weekend, boasting top players such as Katie Sheldon and Robyn Byrne.
The Manx players battled hard, with Halsall producing a fabulous 3-0 win over Ailish Finnan andAndrews suffering an agonising 3-2 defeat to Caroline Breen.
Bardsley was really unlucky against the superb Byrne who didn’t allow her one shot at a double despite posting the women’s team’s best average of the weekend of 66.61. But the class of their opponents saw them cruise to victory.
Men’s match two – Isle of Man 1-12 Republic of Ireland
The Manx men suffered a similar fate to the women, with the Irish proving too strong overall. But there were some excellent efforts in defeat, with Kennaugh posting a 70.62 average in a 3-1 defeat to Brian Fletcher Jr and Lawson losing another last-leg decider, this time to experienced international David Concannon.
It was Young who got the win to avoid the whitewash, taking advantage of an off-night by Michael Meaney to win 3-0. Although ultimately outclassed, it was an excellent experience for all the players to go up against such quality opposition.
Women’s match three
– Isle of Man 5-2 Jersey
The Sunday afternoon saw the Manx women take out their frustrations from day one on their counterparts from Jersey.
After falling behind 2-0 in the match, including a very unlucky 3-2 loss for Hicklin, the Isle of Man players reeled off the next five games to win the match: Andrews (3-2), Halsall (3-1), Robertson (3-1), Kelly (3-0) and Bardsley (3-0) to give the island their first win of the weekend.
Men’s match three -
Isle of Man 4-9 Jersey
The men’s hopes of following the women’s lead took an early knock after falling behind 2-0. Young put in a superb performance with a 120 finish and 77.77 average in a 3-1 win to get the Manx on the board.
The game was poised at 4-4 after Lawson got his first win of the weekend with a 3-1 win over Jersey star Craig Quemard, then Kennaugh won 3-2 and McCarthy won 3-1. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off a bit after that, although youngsters Teare and Stott were extremely unlucky to lose 3-2.
Women’s third/fourth place play-off - Isle of Man
The women missed out on a place in the final by one point but re-focused quickly to stroll past Jersey in their play-off match, dropping only four legs on the way to a 4-0 win.
Robertson kicked things off with a 3-1 win before Kelly (3-0) and Bardsley (3-1) put the team on the hill. Moore then took the glory with her first win of the weekend, 3-1, to complete a comprehensive victory.
Men’s third/fourth place play-off – Isle of Man 4-7 Guernsey
Unfortunately it was to be a winless weekend for the men, which was far from a fair reflection of their efforts.
After falling behind 1-0, it was Young again who got the island off the mark, winning a nail-biter 3-2. After losing the next two games, Saxon (3-1) and Lawson (3-1) levelled the match at 3-3.
Venables then put in his best performance of the weekend to win 3-0 and put the Manx men in the lead. But the next four games went the way of Guernsey, allowing them to finish in third place.
The top performer for the women was Kelly with three wins out of four, with Halsall, Bardsley, Andrews and Robertson all getting two wins each.
For the men, Young went undefeated with four wins out of four, with Kennaugh, Venables, Lawson and Saxon all picking up two wins each.
Isle of Man Darts Organisation would like to thank all of the players who represented their island with pride, particularly those that stepped in to ensure the island could send a team to the event.
Thanks also to all the opponents who made for a hugely enjoyable weekend and well done to the Republic of Ireland who won both the men’s and women’s events and oozed class all weekend.
Massive thanks also go to hosts, the Guernsey Darts Association, who did a fabulous job in putting on the event.
The Isle of Man will be hosting the next edition of the event in January 2024 and anyone interested in sponsoring or helping with the event can contact the Isle of Man Darts Organisation via its website or Facebook page - all help will be gratefully received.