Joe Cullen claimed his maiden European Tour title with a sensational performance to defeat Michael van Gerwen 8-5 in the European Darts Matchplay final in Mannheim on Sunday night.
The Bradford ace claimed the third ranking title of his career in brilliant fashion as he overcame World Champion Van Gerwen with a clinical and confident showing.
Having never previously won past the semi-finals on the European Tour, Cullen saw off William O’Connor, Glen Durrant and James Wade on Sunday to book his spot in the decider at the Maimarkthalle.
He showed no nerves against the World Champion, opening the final with a 180 and claiming four of the opening five legs to move 4-1 up, including a 14-darter to break throw.
Van Gerwen responded in the sixth, only to see Cullen power home a 170 checkout to bring the German crowd to their feet as he opened up a 5-2 lead.
Van Gerwen showed his class with three legs in a row to level the final, but Cullen regained the edge with success 13-darters to lead 7-5 – punishing misses from the Dutchman to break – before an 88 finish for a 14-darter secured the £25,000 title.
“To beat Michael in the final is amazing,” said Cullen, who averaged over 101 in the final. “It’s the biggest moment in my career, it’s great.
“Michael is the consummate professional, he’s so gracious in defeat and victory. Me and Michael are good friends and he congratulated me wholeheartedly.
“It was just one of those weekends. For us mere mortals, we’re not Michael, the stage is where we all play really well or play really bad and Michael has set the standard.
“I’ve been threatening to win a tournament for a while and this weekend I believed I was going to win it. It genuinely believed it. I couldn’t see that anyone could beat me today.”
A four-time European Tour winner in 2019, Van Gerwen saw his bid to add further honours ended in the final for a second successive week, having lost out to Mensur Suljovic in the Austrian Darts Championship last Sunday.
Van Gerwen had avenged that loss by seeing off Suljovic 6-4 in the third round, before edging out Krzysztof Ratajski in the quarter-finals and then storming past Dave Chisnall with a 7-1 semi-final win.
“If you lose any final you can only blame yourself,” said Van Gerwen. “I missed a few chances but Joe played a phenomenal tournament.
“Normally he’s very laconic but today he beat some phenomenal players, also myself in the final, and fair play to him. I have to take this on the chin and move forward.”
Wade survived a missed match dart against Wayne Jones in the third round before seeing off Jonny Clayton 6-4 in the quarter-finals, but lost out in his bid for a second European Darts Matchplay title to Cullen.
Chisnall, June’s Danish Darts Open winner, saw his hopes of a second European Tour title of the year ended in crushing style by Van Gerwen in the last four after he had seen off Ricky Evans and Rob Cross on the day.
Durrant averaged 110 in an outstanding 6-3 third round win over Daryl Gurney earlier on Sunday, while Ratajski survived a missed match dart from Adrian Lewis in their last 16 tie.
Cullen’s success sees him move back into the world’s top 16 as he jumps three places to 15th following the Mannheim triumph.
Ratajski moves up four places to 27th, while Evans and Durrant continued their progress towards the top 32 with their runs over the weekend.
The PDC European Tour continues from September 13-15 with the International Darts Open in Riesa, with coverage to be streamed through video.pdc.tv and bookmakers’ websites worldwide. Tickets are available through www.pdc-europe.tv/tickets.
2019 European Darts Matchplay
Sunday September 8
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Mensur Suljovic
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-5 Adrian Lewis
Rob Cross 6-4 Daryl Gurney
Dave Chisnall 6-1 Ricky Evans
Jonny Clayton 6-5 Ian White
James Wade 6-5 Wayne Jones
Joe Cullen 6-3 William O’Connor
Glen Durrant 6-3 Gerwyn Price
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Krzysztof Ratajski
Dave Chisnall 6-5 Rob Cross
James Wade 6-4 Jonny Clayton
Joe Cullen 6-2 Glen Durrant
Michael van Gerwen 7-1 Dave Chisnall
Joe Cullen 7-5 James Wade
Joe Cullen 8-5 Michael van Gerwen