Sheldon relishing return to top-level competition
TALLAGHT’S Katie Sheldon is eagerly awaiting a return to top national and international darts competition this year.
One of Ireland’s most highly-rated emerging stars in the sport, the 18-year-old is gearing up for a return to the PDC Development Tour in Wigan later this month.
This will see her back up against some of the top youth international darts players over several events split between England and Germany while the PDC Women’s Series will also be among her top targets.
For Sheldon, a former World Masters Under 18 Girls champion and All-Ireland Boys and Ladies titles winner, this year’s PDC Development Tour takes on increasing importance.
“It’s really about going over there for experience, because these lads eventually go on to the pro tours and the bigger circuits” she told The Echo.
“It’s run by the PDC, so it’s amazing competition and it’s an amazing experience, because winning matches in that gives you a great confidence boost. These are some of the best youth players in the world.
“I competed in that before. My best was a quarter final finish when I was beaten Keane Barry, an Irish lad who’s now a professional” she said.
Speaking about the difficulties that came with a lack of competition over the past two years, Sheldon continued “It’s hard, especially when there’s competition only abroad.
“You’re going away with absolutely no match practice, whereas two or three years ago, you might have had a competition once or twice a week. So when you’re coming up to going away, you’d have loads of match practice.
“Going away with no match practice is a lot tougher because, you can do everything you want in practice, but when you have to go and stand up against the big lads, you don’t know where you’re at in terms of your game.
“Thankfully things are opening up and there’s a brighter side to it now. National darts is starting to come back, so hopefully it’s good news ahead of us this year. In April we have the All-Irelands where I’ll be representing Dublin.
“Then after that you’ll have your Irish ranking events to qualify for the senior team, with the top four players at the end of the year qualifying to represent Ireland.
“I’m buzzing to be back playing. We had a men’s singles competition the other night in St Mark’s GAA Club and I won that. There were 20-30 men from Tallaght competing and to win the first competition back, I’m just buzzing.
“It was only something small, but to be back playing properly in a league-type setting, it was nice. And I’m buzzing to get back playing weekly and having something to look forward to instead of saying ‘that next competition is two or three months away.’
While Sheldon is rearing to go with her 2022 darts programme, the Old Bawn Community School student is also keeping one eye firmly on her upcoming Leaving Certificate this summer.
“Once the Leaving Cert is done, after June it’s going to be great” she smiled.
“You have to have something to fall back on, so you don’t want to be silly about your education” she stressed.