SIXTEEN years old and brimming with confidence, not arrogance, just confidence. And why wouldn’t he be. Newtownbutler teenager Ben McCaffrey has already beaten former world champion Michael van Gerwen twice and has recently been endorsed by the Welsh manufacturing company Winmau.
Ben has been coming through the ranks after taking up the sport at a competitive level at 12 years old. He began playing in his local bar An Chead Chumann in his hometown and a year later he was playing an an exhibition tournament in the Great Northern hotel in Bundoran beating the legendary van Gerwen.
“It was surreal. I was standing up on the stage and there was about 900 people in Bundoran watching it, it was a big event. Everyone was up on their feet, there was beer being thrown, I was just standing there.
“Since that night, my darts have just took off, people know who I am and different things.”
It was on that night that Ben was signed by his management company Modus who also have the likes of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, Simon Whitlock, Raymond van Barneveld and van Gerwen on their books and the Newtownbutler player is thankful to van Gerwen for the role he played in that.
“He was actually very good and he gave me a lot of help and he was actually a big part in me signing with Modus. Me and Michael have played six or seven times since that and he has been very good to me and he has given me a lot of tips.
“Having Modus and Winmau behind me has given me a lot of confidence because not every player gets signed by Winmau and Modus because they’re big companies.”
Confidence is key in the game of darts and if that’s what it takes to make it to the top, Ben appears to have it in abundance.
“I’m very confident in myself, that I have the game to become professional. I have great support with Modus and Winmau and my family and everyone in Newtown. I think I have the ability to become professional with the support I have, so I’ll give it the best crack I can.”
Ben draws great inspiration from van Gerwen and closer to home Brendan Dolan is someone the teenager looks up to.
“At the minutes he’s playing some of the best darts of his life. Watching Brendan and getting to know Brendan and him being a professional from Fermanagh, it has given me a lot of belief I can follow in his footsteps and do the same. ”
The St Kevin’s College A-level student turns 17 in less than two weeks time and while his focus is on his studies, his time is also dedicated to his darts with two hours a day spent practising.
“Sometimes it’s very hard to get motivated and to get up and practice but sometimes it’s fun. When you’re playing well it’s very fun.
“Darts is mostly a mental game rather than physical. The head has to be in the right place, you have to be 100 percent focussed. You can’t be thinking, I’m going to lose here, you have to go into every game thinking I’m going to win.”
And when you do win and he throws his favourite double, double 10, there’s nothing quite like it, he recalls.
“It’s the best thing in the world, when you hit the winning double to win the competition and to know you’re the best on the day – that feeling, you can’t even put it into words. Some buzz.”
Pre-Covid times Ben enjoyed travelling around Ireland playing for Monaghan in the county championships and over to England with his father Karl to take part in tournaments like the PDC Development Tour and the World Youth Championships. Covid has put an end to all of that for now but when it’s back, Ben will be ready to get back on the road.
Financially the postponement of tournaments has had a big impact for the teenager with some wins earning him as much as £750.
“Before Covid I used to be out playing every weekend winning that type of money. Darts was funding me, hopefully now after Covid, I’ll go back over to England and play more competitions and try to become professional- that’s the goal.”
His dream is very much supported by his parents, Roisin and Karl.
“They’re great, letting me leave the house every weekend to go and play and during the week and sometimes it’s late nights home and they are 100 percent supportive of it. I’m very grateful for that.”
Ben has shown great potential and his attitude is admirable. The 16 year-old has a confidence that every parent would be proud of and when asked can he be the next World Champion he replies, “If I keep going the way I am and have the support I have, why not? I think I can.” Why not indeed, Ben!
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Posted: 6:25 pm April 18, 2021