Raymond van Barneveld's career ended by World Darts Championship defeat to Darin Young
And so it has ended for Raymond van Barneveld; not with a bang, not exactly with a whimper either.
A 3-1 defeat to Darin Young in the first round of the World Darts Championship brings to an end one of the most decorated careers in the sport. Van Barneveld was left disconsolate by a farewell appearance that ended in defeat to the American in a game of missed chances.
Unsurprisingly, van Barneveld came into his last World Darts Championship off the back of a media storm. A mostly tepid season raised concerns that the Dutch icon would leave with a whimper, 13 years after claiming a fifth world title. But a promising build-up raised hopes that his would be a glorious farewell.
Everything about it, from the pre-match discussion to a spine-tingling walk-on, had an eerie air of finality about it. Only van Barneveld had the power to keep a glittering career rolling on for just a few more days.
The Barney Army was quickly electrified once the darts started flying, with the den Haag star slotting in a 180. The first set itself started in a fairly sedate manner; Young and van Barneveld held throw, despite some narrowly-missed big checkout attempts.
The Alexandra Palace's structural integrity survived narrowly as Barney missed the bull for a 170 check. Much simpler 25 and 8 finishes went begging though, allowing CDC top dog Young to claim the first set 3-1.
Barney bites back
Like it or not, Young was the villain of the piece. Had van Barneveld come flying out of the traps, the pressure may have piled on from the crowd. But in the end, after Barney at the atmosphere started to fall flat, it was Daddy Cool himself who relinquished set two with unforced errors.
Well ahead in the second leg after a regulation Barney hold, Young threw away darts to level the set. It allowed the 2007 World Darts Championship winner a chance at a break, which he took. And with the American trailing by a distance, van Barneveld cruised over the line for a 100 set average and a whitewash.
The first four sets of set three passed without much of note happening, but the culmination was a potentially match-defining decider. Spurred on by a pair of 140s to open, Young gave himself three darts to keep the sets going with the grain. All three missed, but a set dart from Barney fell short to give Young another chance - Big Daddy took it, and lapped up the non-existent acclaim from the crowd.
End of the line
Young finally got the crowd on side with a moment of magic, checking out 160 to break the Barney throw. All of a sudden, the Dutchman's end didn't just seem impending - it looked imminent.
Repeated big scores from the totemic American forced van Barneveld's hand. Some peak Barney was needed to rescue the situation. But this Raymond van Barneveld is by his own admission a spent force. It definitely looked that way when tops was missed to level the set, and Young stepped in to double the deficit.
Van Barneveld comfortably won the third leg, checking out the 96 that so famously dumped out Michael van Gerwen four years ago. And it felt like the former postman was calling on all the brilliance that turned him into a champion when five perfect darts from six opened a 14-dart assault on Young's throw.
With the throw on his side, van Barneveld split open a close-fought leg by piling in a sumptuous 180. Five chances to save the match presented themselves. All five were dismissed. In the midst of a hail of boos and jeers, Darin Young did his job. And that job was ending one of the all-time great darting careers.
The obituaries will start soon. For now, Raymond van Barneveld will simply rue missed chances as he makes his final Alexandra Palace farewell. And Darin Young, the party-pooper extraordinaire, secures a deserved second round berth. He'll face Jeffrey de Zwaan, one of many van Barneveld acolytes inspired by a genuine legend.
PDC World Darts Championship 2020 schedule
Saturday 14 December, evening session
Mark McGeeney (93.66) 3-1 (88.33) Matt Campbell (R1)
Jamie Hughes (95.47) 2-3 (94.22) Zoran Lerchbacher (R1)
Raymond van Barneveld (96.13) 1-3 (87.92) Darin Young (R1)
Rob Cross  vs Kim Huybrechts (R2)