Grand Slam of Darts: Ryan Harrington faces Dave Chisnall for a place in the last eight
"It’s really tough to see the ‘Little One’ as we used to call him, up here now and taking over from where I left off. It’s a very proud moment," Rod Harrington on son Ryan
By Paul Prenderville in Wolverhampton
Last Updated: 13/11/19 5:35pm
When Ryan Harrington toed the oche in Wigan last Monday he can barely have imagined that one week later he'd be taking in the applause of the Wolverhampton crowd alongside proud father Rod in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
However, after Monday's 5-1 win over Wayne Warren sealed a place in the last 16 that's exactly what happened, The Darts Show podcast sat down with the shock member of this week's last 16 and the world no 95 to get the lowdown on the journey following in some very famous darting footsteps.
"I've felt a lot more confident in my darts and I've felt that I can push through what I've been struggling with for the last year-and-a-half," he tells us in a quiet room on the first floor of the Aldersley Leisure Village.
"I can't wait to play more darts, the last year-and-a-half I've been thinking, 'Oh I've got to play darts' it's been in the back of my head. Now, I've got that hunger back to play the game."
Harrington's joy is unconfined. On his way to our interview he bumped into Peter Wright, who had beaten him on Sunday but in beating Danny Noppert opened the door which Harrington marched straight through.
A few days earlier dad Rod, a two-time Matchplay champion, a former world No 1 and a world championship runner-up could be seen pacing the press room as Ryan started with a win.
"When he beat Danny I had a little bit of a tear in my eye," Rod told Dave Clark on Monday.
"It's very hard to watch, Peter Wright did a very professional job but then I'm willing every dart [of Ryan's] in the treble and when he's pushing the odd dart, I'm thinking what are you doing that for? I'm sitting up in the press room and it's tough.
Grand Slam of Darts - Wednesday's Last 16 matches
|Dave Chisnall v Ryan Harrington|
|Gabriel Clemens v Glen Durrant|
|Michael Smith v Daryl Gurney|
|Peter Wright v Rob Cross|
"Whatever he does in this sport, say he went on and won this, that will mean more to me than any tournament that I ever won. Forget about the world No 1s and Matchplays that will mean more to me, him winning it than anything I've ever done.
"He started off as a footballer and a golfer and I think that any father would say that, your emotions of bringing up a kid, you do feel. Everyone does. Everyone would feel the same [about their kids]."
Ryan, 29, is only too happy to sing the praises of his dad, admittedly with a touch of ambition too as the juices start to flow with this week's glimpse of the big-time.
"It's nice to finally put him through the heart attacks that our family had to go through when he played darts.
"Like I said in my interview after the first day, I don't think that I'd be up here and trying to do this sport professionally, if I didn't think that I could do what he's done and some.
"What he's done off the board is unquestionable but I wouldn't be up here trying to do what I'm doing if I didn't think that I could be the best. "
It’s hard, I’ve never been so nervous, my guts have been up and down all the time.
I can’t do anything it’s all in his hands, when I played I was up here on my own.
So I know what my wife and all of my other family were going through when I was playing
While it's hard to wipe the smile from either Harrington's face it's been a tough ride. Not just over the last 18 months as struggles on and off the oche have left him battling to keep his Tour card.
A lowly 95 on the Order of Merit, his run to the second round has more than doubled his prize money for the season. Before this week he had won only £9,000 this season. His three-game run in Wolverhampton has earned him a timely £10,000.
"I think, I've paid off the wedding and the honeymoon now so the pressure is now off," he laughs knowing the future Mrs Harrington is equally delighted with his weekend's work.
Except it's not a weekend's work, due to his ranking, Harrington's Grand Slam adventure began at Robin Park Leisure Centre and the qualifying tournament where eight places were up for grabs.
He beat former World Cup finalist Ronny Huybrechts, all-conquering Development Tour Order of Merit winner Ted Evetts, World Matchplay semi-finalist Jeffrey de Zwaan and James Wilson to earn his spot.
"[Seven days ago] I did not think for a second that I would be here because I'd been struggling, kind of since I'd got a Tour card.
"I think planning the wedding and taking my mind off the stresses and strains of darts has kind of helped and now I've just got to carry on thinking like that.
"It's a massive opportunity, it really is. As a person who is struggling to keep hold of their card, to qualify for the World Championships, this is a massive opportunity for me now. It's mine to lose."
There is still a battle to be won, even his run here may not be enough to keep his card and Q-School in January could still beckon while he may well have to come through another qualifier to reach the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.
But attention turns back to this week and to Wednesday night, 10 days on from the qualification competition that may well have changed his life he is preparing for the biggest test of his darts career so far.
Dave Chisnall is his opponent, a man in terrific form and a man who has designs on a major breakthrough himself. For Harrington, who faced Chizzy in the UK Open a couple of years ago, it will be the longest match of his career as the pair battle it out over 19 legs.
His previous longest was also the biggest match of his life, until Wednesday.
"Probably Michael van Gerwen when I played in the UK Open, purely because of the fact that it was early on in my career and I played the world No 1 in front of the biggest crowd that I'd ever played in.
"Everybody was chanting his name and rightfully so. The only thing that went through my head, although I lost 9-2, was that I can't wait for those people to be shouting my name."
Having spent the last two weeks taking every opportunity that has come his way, the next is just around the corner, and a fearless Harrington has nothing to lose.
"I'm going to be going up there relaxed as well. But, in the back of his head he's going to be thinking, 'I can't lose to him' and in the back of my head I'm going to be thinking, 'Give it to him'."
And what of his dad, a final word for Rod, in his capacity as an expert, major winner and father
He's played Chizzy before at the UK Open and he went toe-to-toe with him for a few. We know that Chizzy is playing very well at the moment but there won't be as much pressure on Ryan in the next game, that was big pressure on him [tonight].
"The one thing that Ryan has done in the qualifiers and in this tournament, is taking his doubles out well. If you've got that in your locker you can lose a little bit on the scoring but he knows what he's got to do against Chizzy, he's just got to stand toe-to-toe with him."
Coverage of the Grand Slam of Darts continues on Wednesday with the start of the knockout stages, join us on Sky Sports Action & Main Event from 7pm and follow along with all the news, interviews & results at www.skysports.com/darts