2024 PDC World Darts Championships: Co Antrim junior darts academy expecting to attract new members on the back of Luke Littler's run to the final
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Gregg Fowles, who is head coach at Carrickfergus Junior Darts Academy, the only JDC Academy in Northern Ireland, praised the 16-year-old after he made it to the final, before losing 7-4 to Luke Humphries in last night’s (Wednesday) decider at the Alexandra Palace in London.
Carrickfergus Junior Darts Academy (JDA) held its first session in January 2020 after being established at the end of 2019. Approximately 25 young players from across the province travel to attend.
Commenting on the impact Luke Littler has had on the sport, Mr Fowles, who was instrumental in the Carrick JDA’s formation, said: “Every year, during and after the World Darts Championships, I always get enquiries regarding young players getting involved in darts.
"But this year has been at another level altogether. I know from other academies, especially in England, they are getting inundated with requests. It is fantastic to see the game of darts getting the spotlight and limelight it deserves, and more so the youth game. It may have taken time, it may even have taken Luke Littler to make that happen.
"Luke (Littler) has helped to raise the profile of darts, very much so, to even greater levels.
"I have no doubt that his good run in the World Championships will help to attract more young players to our academy.
"It will help to develop the current crop of young players, especially in the JDC Junior Darts Corporation Academy darts. It may also help grow membership and hopefully help to form new academies.”
Mr Fowles is confident someone from a locally-based junior darts academy will follow in Littler’s footsteps and progress to playing on the world stage.
He stated: “I have no doubt in my mind that within 10 years a member from the Carrickfergus Junior Darts Academy, or another Northern Ireland based JDC Academy, will grace the stage at the Lakeside, or even the Alexandra Palace in London.
"We have only been going since 2020 and we have graced the Junior World stage in Gibraltar at the JDC World championships, where we actually faced Luke and his English teammates in the World Cup Team event late last year."
Offering advice to any young players wishing to make it to the highest levels, Gregg added: “My advice would be to practice, practice, practice. Find your nearest darts club or JDC Academy.
"Join in, have fun and throw darts. Enjoy the game first and the darts and results will follow. Luke is playing for the love of the game. That frees up his mind and he is certainly enjoying every moment.
"Win, lose or draw that young lad will do great things. He’s a fantastic boy with a good family network around him. He will do very well in his darts career.”