JASON CULLEN'S dream debut at the BDO World Championships in Frimley Green didn't extend beyond the last 16 as he was comprehensively beaten by Paul Jennings of Hartlepool at the Lakeside venue on Wednesday evening last.
The Ballymurn man boasted a better first nine average than his opponent, but missed doubles let him down badly as he bowed out by four sets to nil.
Still, it was a remarkable few days for the 24year-old as he shot to prominence after shocking eleventh seed Martin Atkins in the opening round, having won no fewer than seven matches in the play-offs to qualify for this televised event for the first time.
Indeed, Cullen was only the seventh player in the 36-year history of the championships to represent Ireland, but his quest to break new ground and become the first to reach the last eight ended in disappointment.
The son of John and Teresa came up against an opponent in devastating form on the doubles, with Jennings taking 12 of the 15 legs played en route to an impressive win. The pattern of the contest was set from an early stage as the Englishman won the first two legs before Jason hit back, only to go down 3-1 as Jennings claimed the first set.
Jason had particular trouble with double top, missing it six times in the opening two sets as his more experienced rival hammered home his advantage. A case in point was the second leg in the second set when the Wexford man hit a maximum in response to one from his opponent. Jason then hit a single 20 when tops would have given him the leg, and he was punished to the full as Jennings checked out on 128.
It was a similar story in the third leg when a couple of 140s left Jason on a 61 finish. After hitting 25 with his first throw, he missed two attempts at double 18 and Jennings took out 64 to stretch into a two sets to nil advantage.
A cry of 'come on Wexford' was heard in the TV coverage as family and friends tried hard to rally Jason, but Jennings was proving unstoppable and won the third set on a 3-0 scoreline. It took less than 14 minutes for the eventual winner to transform his 1-0 lead into 3-0 with a brace of three-leg whitewashes in rapid succession.
Jason squandered a good chance to take the first leg in that third set, missing double 12 to complete a 101 checkout. He got a second chance, but missed double six twice before hitting a single and Jennings capitalised with a clinical 60 checkout.
A 140 haul was the highlight of the second leg from Jason's point of view, but his rival hit a 180 and went 2-0 up with an 84 checkout. Jason then had 121 to leave an 85 finish in leg three, but he missed double top and Jennings closed out the set with a 92 checkout (bull, ten, double 16).
Jason missed double eight in the first leg of the fourth set and was duly punished. He had a chance in the second leg too but double top let him down yet again, meaning that Jennings had won an incredible nine legs on the trot.
The long-time pace-setter had the throw and was just one leg away from victory, but Jason to his credit rallied and showed a little more of what he is capable of by evening up the set at 2-2. A brace of 140s set him up nicely in the third leg and he got back on the scoresheet with a double ten finish.
Jennings missed double top in the fourth leg whereas Jason hit it at his second attempt to draw level in the set. However, his campaign was quickly ended as Jennings sealed a 4-0 win with a treble 18, double 16 checkout of 86.
The grand total of 20 missed doubles came back to haunt the Wexford man, but he has still done more than anyone ever managed before to promote the game of darts in the county over the past ten days. Hopefully this was the first of many outings for him on the big stage at the Lakeside.