Early Doors – Ally Pally Openers

Red Dragon Darts

Opening night and then the pre-Christmas period can be rather special at the People’s Palace. Often, this is the time when debutants make their name, veterans take a final bow and the crowd is at its most boisterous. 

2023 looks no different, so we’ve highlights a few interesting match-ups :

Second Round SeedFirst Round Game
(1) Gerwyn PriceVLuke Woodhouse v Vladyslav Omelchenko
(32) Raymond van BarneveldVRyan Meikle v Lisa Ashton
(16) Ryan SearleVAdam Gawlas v Richie Burnett
(17) Jose de Sousa VSimon Whitlock v Christian Perez
(8) James WadeVJim Williams v Sebastian Bialecki
(25) Gabriel ClemensVWilliam O’Connor v Beau Greaves
(9) Danny NoppertVRitchie Edhouse v David Cameron
(24) Daryl GurneyVAlan Soutar v Mal Cuming
(4) Michael SmithVJermaine Wattimena v Nathan Rafferty
(29) Martin SchindlerVMartin Lukeman v Nobuhiro Yamamoto
(13) Joe CullenVRicky Evans v Fallon Sherrock
(20) Damon HetaVAdrian Lewis v Daniel Larsson
(5) Luke Humphries VKeegan Brown v Florian Hempel
(28) Vincent van der VoortVCameron Menzies v Diogo Portela
(12) Dave ChisnallVAndrew Gilding v Robert Owen
(21) Stephen BuntingVGeert Nentjes v Leonard Gates
(2) Peter WrightVMickey Mansell v Ben Robb
(31) Kim HuybrechtsVKeane Barry v Grant Sampson
(15) Dimitri Van den BerghVRowby-John Rodriguez v Lourence Ilagan
(18) Krzysztof RatajskiVDanny Jansen v Paolo Nebrida
(7) Jonny ClaytonVSteve Beaton v Danny van Trijp
(26) Brendan DolanVJamie Hughes v Jimmy Hendriks
(10) Nathan AspinallVBoris Krcmar v Toru Suzuki
(23) Callan RydzVJosh Rock v Jose Justicia
(3) Michael van GerwenVNiels Zonneveld v Lewy Williams
(30) Mensur SuljovicVMike De Decker v Jeff Smith
(14) Dirk van DuijvenbodeVKarel Sedlacek v Raymond Smith
(19) Ross SmithVJohn O’Shea v Darius Labanauskas
(6) Rob CrossVScott Williams v Ryan Joyce
(27) Mervyn KingVMatt Campbell v Danny Baggish
(11) Gary AndersonVMadars Razma v Prakash Jiwa
(22) Chris DobeyVMartijn Kleermaker v Xicheng Han

The first Ukrainian contestant is bound to gain a reaction from the crowd and the media machine alike. Luke Woodhouse will have to stay focused on the job at hand. Lisa Ashton, Fallon Sherrock and Beau Greaves will also gain a great deal of publicity after their recent efforts but we’ll have more of the ‘Women’s March’ later ( Page ). 

The new generation will be strongly represented, and Danny’s Jansen and Van Trijp will show that the Dutch converter belt is still producing remarkable talent. Josh Rock will perhaps be the most keenly watched of this year’s young guns as the 21-year-old looks to fulfill some exceedingly high expectations. He does not have a straightforward against a talented determined opponent in Spain’s Jose Justicia.

At the opposite end of the age range the veterans of professional darts are massed to take advantage of any who would underestimate them. Barney and Steve Beaton both pulled off respective reminders of their enormous talent in the Autumn but behind them is a veritable smorgasbord of veteran talent looking to stir the blood as well as the memories. (more on page:     )

Perhaps, due to previously mixed quality, the least attention is paid to the ’International Qualifiers’ but this is now a stronger area. Mainland Europe’s strength with Poland’s Bialecki, Germany’s Hempel and Latvia’s Razma all impressing recently, North America is returning or even surpassing its very best: Campbell, Baggish, and Gates are all capable of shining whereas Cameron and Smith have already excelled in different formats and codes. 

Return trips to the Palace feature last year’s favourite Raymond Smith who along with Mal Cuming and Benn Robb makes up a strong Antipodean trio.

Shocks and seeds being KO’s by qualifiers are a feature of the early days so we have also highlighted the games featuring Whitlock, Lewis, Menzies (and Portela), and Alan Soutar. All three could be tough games in themselves, but also set up thrillers in their second matches.


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