BDO World Championships: Tony O'Shea seeks elusive first title
|BDO World Championships 2015|
|Date: 3-11 January 2015 Venue: Lakeside Country Club, Frimley Green|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, online, mobiles, tablets and BBC Sport app|
The body may be creaking a bit these days but the heart is stronger than ever. That is why Tony O'Shea will be back at Lakeside this week, aiming to end his long wait for a first BDO World Championship title.
Three times a runner-up and so often one of the favourites to win at Frimley Green, the 53-year-old from Stockport suffered a deflating first-round whitewash by Martin Adams 12 months ago.
In the aftermath of that premature exit, the aches and pains from his many years on the oche began to take their toll, to such an extent that he briefly considered giving up the game.
"I've had a tough year on the tour," O'Shea, who will be appearing in his 14th consecutive World Championship, told BBC Sport.
"I've had a few problems - I'm wearing a bandage on my knee and putting spray on my arm, so I've not had the best of years.
"For me, that match against Martin was the start of my really bad patch.
"I felt terrible before Christmas, I had shoulder problems, and it was like a perfect storm against Martin. I didn't win a leg and I felt so bad afterwards. A lot of people turned up to support me and it was the worst I'd ever played in my life.
"Then I went to the Dutch Open and lost in the first round there. I was thinking all sorts - 'maybe it was time to pack it in' or whatever.
"Slowly but surely, from April and May onwards when I had my first cortisone, it's started to come back slowly and hopefully I'm on the road back."
That will come as a great relief to O'Shea's huge army of supporters. If darts was a popularity contest, the player affectionately known as "Silverback" would be a multiple world champion.
Evidence of that came at the Grand Slam of Darts in November, when the Wolverhampton crowd serenaded O'Shea with his walk-on song, DJ Otzi's "Hey Baby", throughout his group-stage win over Jamie Caven.
"There are two or three games in my career that I'll always look back on," said O'Shea, a former greenkeeper.
"One was playing Ted Hankey at Lakeside in 2009 when I got it back to 6-6 in the final. Unfortunately I lost that one as well," he joked.
"But that was an amazing atmosphere, and then that Sunday night in Wolverhampton was out of this world. You can't buy stuff like that. I'll remember that when I'm an old codger showing my grandkids the video."
|Tony O'Shea's near misses at Lakeside|
|2013: Scott Waites 7-1 Tony O'SheaYorkshire's Waites ends his long wait for a first world title, recording the biggest victory margin in a best-of-13 sets final at Lakeside.|
|2012: Christian Kist 7-5 Tony O'SheaLakeside debutant Kist takes a 6-2 lead, and despite O'Shea clawing his way back to 6-5, the Dutchman hangs on for victory.|
|2009: Ted Hankey 7-6 Tony O'SheaO'Shea fights back from 6-4 down to level at 6-6 before Hankey edges a Lakeside classic to claim his second world title.|
As a result of his struggles in 2014, O'Shea is unseeded at the World Championship, but do not count him out.
Stephen Bunting was a strong favourite for the 2014 tournament and eventually went on to win the event. However, with Bunting out of the equation after switching to the Professional Darts Corporation, the draw appears much more open this time around.
O'Shea continued: "In the BDO system, that's always been our big thing. Anyone can play for their county, turn up and win the World Championship. You only have to look back to [1983 world champion] Keith Deller all those years ago, and it still is like that.
"Looking at the PDC system, it's probably the most open PDC World Championship ever as well. It's great for darts that there are so many players playing quality darts.
"One or two people are saying Phil Taylor's struggling, but he's throwing 106 averages. It's just that all these other guys are stepping up to the mark and giving him a game."
O'Shea's latest bid for victory at Lakeside begins on Saturday when he plays number four seed Scott Mitchell in round one. As with his previous 13 visits, his goal remains the same - to become world champion.
"That's why I keep trying my best. One thing I am is a trier," he said.
"People have said I've lost in seven major finals, but I've made seven finals. I don't know many people that have been in seven finals. If I never win one, I'll still retire a happy man because I've made all those finals.
"And I did actually win one! It was the WDF World Cup Singles on television in America in 2009, but people forget that because nobody saw it. I averaged about 109 in that final, so I have actually won a big one."
So often the darting bridesmaid, rarely the bride. But a philosophical O'Shea, immensely popular with crowds and fellow players, is just pleased to have been invited to the wedding.
And if he ends up lifting the World Championship trophy on 11 January, nobody in darts would begrudge him his long-awaited walk down the aisle.