MARIA O’Brien, Plymouth’s top lady darts player and England international produced one of her best ever performances on the oche this afternoon when she came within just one victory of appearing in the PDC William Hill World Championships at the Alexandra Palace, next month.
A top-class field of 153 players competed in the UK and Ireland Women’s qualifier at Milton Keynes for a spot in the world's biggest darts event, looking to join Anastasia Dobromyslova after the Russian star won the Rest of the World Women’s Qualifier last weekend in Germany.
Maria opened up with a 4-0 defeat of Yorkshire’s Paula Burgess before winning again in four straight legs to end the hopes of Surrey’s Kirsty Chubb.
That win put her into the last 32 where she was drawn to meet Buckinghamhsire’s Sarah-Louise Mallott and achieved the second highest average of the round with 77.20, which was only bettered by a 78.10 from the current ladies’ world champion Lisa Ashton.
O’Brien emerged a 4-1 winner, aided by her best leg being won in 14 and continued that form into the last 16 when defeating Diane Nash of Cambridgeshire, also 4-1 aided by a 15-darter, which she finished with a kill of 112.
It now started to get serious and standing in Maria’s way of a place in the semi-finals was her England international team-mate Fallon Sherrock whose darts pedigree requires no explaining.
Despite Maria taking the opening leg in 21, Sherrock edged in front with legs in 19 and 16 before a win in the fourth leg brought the two competitors level.
A brilliant 15-darter which she finished with a kill of 141 edged Maria in front once again and although she should have won it 4-2, following back to back 140s, Sherrock made it 3-3 with a win in 18 before success in 20 saw Maria into the last four.
The format now moved to the best of nine and on the oche trying to deny O’Brien a place in the final was her pairs’ partner, Deta Hedman, who had earlier defeated the World No.1 Lorraine Winstanley.
Hedman, though could not replicate that form and Maria emerged a 5-2 winner in 18, 17, 18, 21 and 21 to take her place in the high-profile final.
Not surprisingly, winning her way from the other half of the draw was Lisa Ashton and her form throughout the day deserved her favouritism.
The Lancashire Rose raced into a 3-1 early advantage with wins in 19, 16 and 17 but O’Brien stayed with the task in hand and made it 3-3 after hitting a maximum 180 in a 15-dart sixth leg.
Unfortunately, though Maria had won her last game. Ashton showed the form which sets her aside from the rest of the world’s lady darts players and won the next two in 15 and 20 before emerging a 6-3 winner with another 15 leg when checking out at the first time of asking from 132.
Hopefully Maria, whose average for the tournament was 73.26, can take a lot of positives from this showing as she eyes the BDO World Darts Championships at Lakeside in January.