Pride Of The [Six] Nations

Red Dragon Darts

NATIONAL pride can manifest itself in many guises, but when it occurs in the sporting arena it is rarely ever bettered.

Such was the case for the Republic of Ireland’s darts players over the past weekend as they competed in the Winmau Six Nations Cup on home soil.

After both the women’s and men’s teams lost their opening games at the Shearwater Hotel in Galway on Friday, the harvesting of that national pride ensured Saturday would be a very different story.

World Cup winner Katie Sheldon was the first to display the passion that would drag both teams through to the semi-finals, as she let out a yelp after securing an early lead for her Irish team, also made up of Caroline Breen and Robyn Byrne, in a must-win match against the Netherlands.

It was an attitude that permeated the Irish players as they went on to secure an impressive 8-1 win over the Dutch, to set up a semi-final clash with eventual winners Wales.

It was a similar story for the men’s team in their must-win second group match, as Conor Heneghan took Sheldon’s fighting spirit up several notches as he let more than a fair few roars out of him after winning the opening leg for the Republic of Ireland against Northern Ireland’s former world champion Neil Duff.

While there was some devilishness to Heneghan’s antics, there was plenty of method to them too, as he geed up his team-mates, and all those watching on, as the Republic won 13-5 to progress to a semi-final with England.

As his impressive displays on the Modus Super Series have shown, Heneghan knows exactly the right moments when to get pumped up. And if you can’t get pumped up when playing for your country, then what would be the point to it at all?

Speaking of playing for the Republic of Ireland, Heneghan says:

 “It’s great when you get to represent your country like this.

“Everyone gets on so well too, it’s like a big family. We are all there to try and achieve the same goal.”

While the win over Northern Ireland was achieved with some aplomb, Ireland’s team manager Kevin Devanney pointed out they had actually averaged two points higher in their 13-7 defeat to Wales in their opening group game.

That stat came as little surprise to the Republic of Ireland’s team captain Adrian Devine, who was joined in the Irish side by Heneghan, Gerard McGlynn, Michael Flynn and Dean Finn.

He said:

 “We actually played very well against Wales, but they took out some big shots at times when our lads were sitting on doubles and didn’t miss very much.

“We are all capable of that, which is why we are here, but Wales really took out the right shots at the right time.”

It’s no surprise, then, that the Wales men’s team emulated their women’s by going on to win the Six Nations Cup by defeating England in the final.

With Rhian O’Sullivan also winning the women’s singles event, Terry Nash had the opportunity to complete a clean sweep for Wales. However standing in his way in the men’s singles was Ireland’s unflappable Gerard McGlynn.

He, too, was infected with Heneghan’s pumped up national pride as he reacted to each winning double he hit in the singles final with a satisfied roar.

As Ireland’s top ranked player for the 2023/24 season, McGlynn showed all his experience and class to see off Nash with a 5-2 win, and end the weekend on a high note for the Irish contingent.

McGlynn had beaten his Ireland team-mate Dean Finn in the semi-finals of the singles, with Finn heaping praise on the quality amongst the Irish ranks.

Finn said: 

“I’ve played for Ireland teams before but never on the men’s senior team.

“I didn’t ever expect to go this far and actually make the Ireland team.

“My last time with Ireland was with the youths, on the same team as Conor Heneghan, in 2015 when we won the Europe Cup.

“It’s a little bit mad that here we are almost ten years later and we are back playing together on the men’s Ireland team now.

“If it’s a different scale when you’re playing at this level.”

He added:

“I didn’t feel pressure playing for this Ireland team as the players on it are so good that if I knew if I was to lose, I know that Conor, Gerard, Mick or Adrian would come straight back in and win for us.

“The standard of players in Ireland now is very strong so it’s great to be part of this team.”

Adrian Devine added similar sentiments as he spoke of his pride at being captain of the Republic of Ireland team. He said: 

To captain Ireland in a major tournament like this is beyond anything I thought I’d ever achieve in darts.”


First published in Darts World Extra (Issue 17)

Keith Falkiner is a journalist, a county darts player and runs the Darts In Ireland YouTube and TikTok channel @dartseire 


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