Maria eyes World crown in Lakeside showdown

THE big decision that Plymouth’s top lady darts player took back in January 2017, to pursue ranking points from as many tournaments as possible, has paid off with her qualifying for the 2018 World Championships.

Maria O’Brien will rightfully take her place among the worlds elite lady darts players at the famous Lakeside, to contest the BDO world crown and will commence her assault this coming Sunday.

The tournament, which will be televised by Channel 4 in partnership with BT Sport, starts on Saturday and will continue right through to when the new champions will be crowned on Sunday, January 14.

Plymouth’s own golden girl was one of eight qualifiers who were drawn against the eight seeded players and the 47-year-old’s first opponent will be Sharon Prins.

The pair are scheduled to do battle on Sunday evening and will be the second match televised live on BT Sport, which will commence at 7pm.

ASSAULT: Maria O'Brien will begin her assault on the BDO World Championships at the famous Lakeside this Sunday, in front of a live TV world audience when she faces Sharon Prins of The Netherlands.

Success in 2017 started for Maria as early as January, when she won the Romanian Classic, beating Paula Jacklin in the final and in March became the first lady darts player in the history of the Devon County Super League to hit a 10-dart leg.

The Business Development Manager set a new benchmark when she hit 180-121-180 before hitting double 10 with the first dart of her next visit for a victory which gave her a 27.33 average.

In April, O’Brien made the semi-finals of the both the Winmau Ladies’ Classic Singles and the Winmau Ladies’ Classic doubles at The Blues Club, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

The run to the semi-final of the singles included a 4-3 victory over the 2016 world championship runner-up Corrine Hammond before being denied a place in the final when bowing out 4-2 to the three-time world champion Anastasia Dobromyslova, who went on to claim the title when she defeated the current world champion Lisa Ashton 5-1 in the final.

In June she won the Hampshire Open beating Laura Turner 5-1, finishing the sixth and decisive leg in 18 darts when checking out from 120.

O’Brien produced an eye-catching performance in July when she represented Devon in the ladies’ Gold Cup singles at The Magna Centre, Rotherham, only losing in the semi-final to an in-form Fallon Sherrock who defeated the World’s no.1 player, Deta Hedman, 5-1 in the final.

Also in July, O’Brien went all the way to the final of the BDO Gateway International Open, which was contested at the Gateway Resort, Bynea, Llanelli.

She showed excellent form on her way into the semi-finals where she faced Sarah Roberts who, earlier in the day had beaten the Winmau Ladies Classic champion Fallon Sherrock, but that form counted for nothing as Maria made the final with a 4-2 victory.

Waiting in the final was Anca Zijlstra from the Netherlands and the 43-year-old was in the form of her life. She was unplayable on the day, winning 5-0, aided by an outshot of 167 and finishing with a 29.47 average.

In August Maria earned more ranking points when she competed in both the Swedish Classic and Swedish Open at Hotel Scandic Triangeln in Malmö.

O’Brien made the quarter-finals of the singles and the following day partnered Deta Hedman when contesting the Swedish pairs and the duo went all the way to the final.

They had a morale boosting victory in the quarter-finals when defeating the fancied partnership of Anastasia Dobromyslova and Lorraine Winstanley before beating the all-Dutch combination of Aileen de Graaf and Sharon Prins 4-2 in the final for the title.

In September, O’Brien and Hedman won the Winmau BDO British Open Pairs title at The Spa, Bridlington with another accomplished performance.

They played five matches in getting to the final, dropping just a single leg along the way, before they edged out Dobromyslova and Winstanley 3-2 in the final.

November saw her win the Devon Open title for the third time in as many years and in the British Inter County Championship match away at Cheshire, achieved her highest ever county average of 29.47.

Maria won 3-0 in 20, 18 and 13 with what proved to be the top average attained by any lady player in the British Isles that weekend.

November’s county fixtures were the last one for 2017 so the stats show that O’Brien finished the year as the best lady player in the country, topping the performance table with a 26.37 average from her four victories, after hitting highs of 25.47, 24.64 and 25.91 in the three matches before.

Sharon Prins, who O’Brien has never before played in a singles competition, is ranked No.8 in the world and was a semi-finalist in the BDO World Championships in 2013 and 2015.

The 29-year-old, who hails from Zoetermeer in South Holland, won the WDF Europe Cup in 2016 and followed that victory with three titles in 2017 when winning the Belfry Open, Denmark Masters and EDO London Classic.

All the stats make for an intriguing World Championship encounter and an eye-catching performance would not only enhance O’Brien’s profile, but hopefully guarantee her that much coveted England call-up.

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