Love the Darts: Magic Murph on his 9-darter, hole in one and 147 treble

By Paul Woodage 02/04/2021

THE nine-darter, a 147 break, in snooker, and a hole in one in golf. It’s fair to say each is incredibly difficult to achieve but surely you’d be hard pressed to find a person who has done all three? Enter Shaun Murphy.

A darts-loving snooker World Champion who can clearly swing a golf club. No wonder he is known as The Magician. It’s always been a big debate as to which is the most difficult, so who better to ask than someone who has managed to do the lot. Murph replies: “Hmm.....I would say a hole in one is the easiest out of the three because you can achieve it with a large chunk of luck. “You could line up a thousand balls and one might drop down the hole. The other two are miles ahead in terms of difficulty. “But what I would say is, if you took a complete novice and coached them in darts and snooker they would probably hit the nine-darter first. That said, they both take an extremely high amount of skill and I think it’s unfair to compare as two entirely different sports.

“My hole in one was back around 2007 at the Royal Worlington Golf Club near Newmarket. I was on the seventh tee and it was quite misty, in fact visibility was that poor I didn’t even see the ball go in but I do remember teeing off with an eight iron! “I had just turned ten years old when I hit my first century in snooker. I remember hearing Ronnie (O’Sullivan) had done it just before his 10th birthday so that was my target but I narrowly missed out. It was about a year later when I made my first 147. Unfortunately there isn’t any footage but it was at my snooker club, Raunds Q-Sports in Northamptonshire. I could barely see over the table!

“The nine-darter was a bit of a weird one, it was in 2013 shortly after I had moved back to the family home in Manchester. I used to drink in a pub called the Carters Arms in Sale and was drafted into the local pool and darts leagues. I recall being on ‘A Question Of Sport’ a few months earlier with Phil Taylor, we got chatting and I got to know him pretty well after that. “He kindly gave me a set of his darts so one night in the pub I started throwing with them and an hour later hit the nine. No one recorded that either but plenty witnessed it.”

Murphy now resides in Dublin with his wife and two young children. He won the World Snooker Championship in 2005 and boasts an impressive nine major ranking titles to his name but has always had a passion for the arrows. He added: “My love for darts started with my brother-in-law, Martin Cooper. He played county level and whenever he popped over with my sister and the kids we would have a few games. I had a very close called Jason Lovell who was a superb darts player. We both practised at Raunds and had dreams of one day winning our respective World Championships. Unfortunately for Jason, he was only ever able to show his amazing ability on the practice board.

“Over Christmas, I always watch the World Championships on the telly. We normally have our Masters event at the Ally Pally straight after but this year it was moved to Milton Keynes. Of course, both sports share the same chairman, Barry Hearn, so we have that in common. “Barry once told me a story of two groups of lads at an event, one lot dressed as superheroes and the other as marines. They were all in great spirits at the start of the evening but as the beer flowed and the night went on, things started to boil over. In the end all hell broke loose and it was quite a sight to see the likes of Batman, Captain America and the Hulk fighting a bunch of US marines!”

Darts and snooker share many similarities that aren’t always obvious. Despite being completely contrasting to watch, they both require enormous levels of concentration and strength of mind. Murphy continued: “Both sports are incredibly difficult mentally, once you are out there playing you are on completely on your own. “Snooker can be very challenging as you don’t know how long you could be sat in your chair waiting for your next shot. In comparison, darts players know they don’t have to wait long between throws but that doesn’t make it any less mentally challenging. “It’s incredibly hard to retain that level of concentration, that’s what separates the elite from the rest.

Of course another difference is you have fans at the darts in fancy dress singing away but to be honest if we had the same in snooker it wouldn’t really put us off. It’s just a myth that we want complete silence. “When you stand on the oche you can completely focus on the dartboard. However, when we’re at the table there is always someone in our eye line so it’s the movement that puts us off, not the noise. Maybe if they put the oche in the middle of Ally Pally and the fans in a circle around it the players would struggle. It’s fairly impossible to set up a venue in snooker where the fans wouldn’t be in our eye line unless perhaps the table was at a lower level to the audience.

“I found it fascinating watching the recent darts World Championships because it was interesting to see which players needed the buzz and adrenaline of the crowd to perform to their best. Even when the fans are relatively quiet you’re fully aware that you have thousands of eyes on you. “I’ve a good few friends in the world of darts. I’m particularly pally with Wayne Mardle and we are in regular contact. MC John McDonald is another one I am good mates with and have been along to a good number of darts shows to promote upcoming snooker events. I also recall being on the Weakest Link once with Bobby George. He is a big character and lovely bloke.

“We often have a dartboard up in the backstage area at the snooker tournaments. A lot of the lads are keen players; Martin Gould is very good and Mark Selby and Mark Williams are decent. I’d have to say though that one of our top referees, Jan Verhaas, who is good mates with Barney is by far the best. I never throw a dart before a match as I just can’t control the cue, the action is completely different and extends the arm the opposite way.”

So how have the restrictions affected Murphy and his family? He revealed: “At first lockdown was difficult for us. I’m married with two young children under four and we were all squashed into a two-bedroom apartment in Dublin waiting for our house to be finished. We had only moved back to Ireland in July 2018 as my wife, who is Irish, wanted to return home. Of course I had no idea what was around the corner, with hindsight I might have bought a snooker table for the new house but no one saw this coming. “Despite the sports centres being closed, I am still allowed to practice in my local club but I’m always very careful and take every necessary precaution to limit the risk of picking up the virus. Let’s hope things can return to normal soon and the fans can get back to watching live snooker and darts.

The original version of this article appears in Darts World Magazine (Issue 573)


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