AFTER a disappointing performance in the Scottish Open, Maria O’Brien will be hoping for better fortunes this weekend when she participates in both the Slovak Masters and Slovak Open in the x- bionic® sphere in Šamorín, near Bratislava.
The Business Development Manager will be returning as defending champion after claiming her first ever Category A title last February when winning the Slovak Open.
Twelve months ago, Maria safely negotiated the early rounds before disposing of Sweden’s Deana Rosenblom 4-0 in the last 32.
She then ended the hopes of Paula Jacklin, by a 4-1 margin, before meeting the defending champion Fallon Sherrock.
Sherrock had defeated Maria 5-1 the day before, in the quarter-finals of the Slovak Masters but in a well contested encounter, the scoreline stood at 4-4 before O’Brien hit the winning double of the decisive leg.
Jitka Cisarovà from the Czech Republic was a surprise semi-finalist, but Maria swept her aside 5-1 before meeting the World No.1 ranked player Lisa Ashton, the only player in the World’s top 10 who she had never beaten.
Maria scored well in the opening leg of the final but five missed darts at the business end of the leg let Ashton in to go one up.
O’Brien scored 440 points with her first four visits of the second leg, but only had one dart at the double before Lisa went 2-0 up in 16.
Maria pulled one back when taking the third in 18 and then levelled when finishing a 15-darter with a kill of 104.
Four more ton plus scores in the next helped Maria to edge in front for the first time with a win in 18 before making it 4-2 when taking the next in 16.
Lisa scored well in the next leg and arrived at her double first but uncharacteristically missed six game darts before Maria hit double 20 at her first attempt to clinch the title with a 91.9 average.
Asked how she felt after winning her first major, Maria replied: “Over the moon, Lisa was the last monkey off my back”.
She first competes today in the Slovak Masters and Maria, who is seeded fifth for both tournaments, will meet Hungarian Agnes Cserpes in her first match.
The Slovak Open will be contested at the same venue tomorrow where OB will start her title defence against England’s Roz Bulmer.