The artful darter

Darts has long been associated with the county of Cork. It is only recently, however, that those outside this world have begun to take an interest in the game, thanks in part to its extensive coverage on television. Mary Nugent has been on the darts circuit for quite some time, and she told Louise Cashell how younger people are continually joining the game thanks to its new found fame.

Thursday, 31 January 2013
12:00 AM GMT

"For me darts started off as something you would just play on a Saturday night, but it was Norma Deasy who inspired me to try out for the Cork team one day. That was 20 years ago that I started and I play in about four or five big competitions around Ireland every year. I don't actually play it every day but I'd certainly be playing it four or five times a week as I'm involved in a couple of teams. In general it's the same people on the circuit but recently you'd certainly notice a few new faces starting to creep in."

Next weekend, Mary is one of 11 including team captain Michelle Gould who will travel to the All-Ireland Championships in Ennis to defend their title which they won last year and it will be Mary's sixth win in all, should they manage to do so.

"We're definitely favourites heading in to it, I think people see us as the team to beat. It's a two day event and all the counties are split in to groups of four and the top two from each group progresses to the quarter-finals and so on. We have a very young team with us this year which is something different - the youngest is 22 - so I think that's adds a certain freshness to it.

"Cork has always been the team that is associated with winning and I think that's down to how popular the game is in and around Cork city, there is so many pubs that have a darts team and often it's the case, like myself, that you'd start off playing casually and then you progress from there."

Darts has developed in to two entities for Mary. Firstly there is the thrill of competing, and in her case usually winning, but she says that competing in darts also means that she has developed a wide circle of friends.

"The people that you meet at the competitions are brilliant and the teams that I am involved in are just out of this world. My two sons are also dart players - Shane is 27 and Alan is 19 and we often play each other and they're even starting to beat me but only the odd time so that's ok!" Mary says laughing.

Mary herself lives on Clonakilty and much of her practice happens in Bernie's Bar in Clonakilty, a famous darts playing establishment in West Cork. For now, Mary's focus is on the All-Ireland which begins on 9 February and will be spread out over two days.

"I don't really suffer from nerves that much but when you get to the venue I would notice I get a bit more nervous but as soon as the match begins you forget about it. The crowd are always great as well, people travel from all over Ireland and there is always a fantastic atmosphere which really helps as well, it helps you to forget any of those nerves that you may have had before the game so i'm just looking forward to it now and hopefully the title will be ours again!"

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