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Premier League Darts omission “a kick in the balls” admits Joe Cullen

Jamie Shaw in Premier League Darts 30 Jan 2023
Cullen misses out on a place in this year’s event (Photo by Steve Paston/PDC)

Joe Cullen has described being left out of the 2023 Premier League Darts line-up as “a kick in the balls” after the eight-man field was confirmed on Monday.

Cullen made his debut in last year’s Premier League following on from his Masters triumph, finishing fourth in the table before going on to reach the final – where he missed a match dart in an agonising 11-10 defeat to Michael van Gerwen.

The 33-year-old picked up a European Tour title and two Players Championships last season, while also reaching the Quarter-Finals of the Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals.

However, after a Fourth Round exit at the World Championship and a First Round defeat on his return to The Masters as defending champion, Cullen has been left out of the Premier League field.

Chris Dobey, who defeated Cullen in Milton Keynes on Friday, went on to win the title 48 hours later – marking his first televised silverware and with it a debut spot in the Premier League.

Cullen took to social media to express his disappointment at the omission, tweeting: ‘Gutted with my omission from the Premier League! Don’t feel its justified at all if I’m honest…. In fact its a kick in the balls!

‘But I’m certainly not the only player who rightly feels hard done by! Felt I deserved another chance after been 1mm from winning – been a tough day!’

Dobey will be joined in the elite invitational by Nathan Aspinall and Dimitri van den Bergh – who return following a year’s absence.

Aspinall, the 2020 runner-up, will make his third Premier League appearance after featuring in the World Grand Prix and Grand Slam of Darts final at the back end of 2022.

Van den Bergh also returns to the fold following a strong season which saw him win two World Series titles and reach the World Matchplay and World Championship Semi-Finals.

World Champion and world number one Michael Smith headlines this year’s line-up following his historic exploits at Ally Pally, with 2021 World Champion Gerwyn Price also returning for a fifth campaign.

Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen will be chasing a record-breaking seventh Premier League title in 2023, with 2017 runner-up Peter Wright set to make his tenth consecutive Premier League appearance.

Jonny Clayton, the 2021 champion and last year’s league phase winner, also returns for a third consecutive campaign.

Reigning European Champion Ross Smith, UK Open champion Danny Noppert and four-time European Tour event winner and current world number five Luke Humphries, join Cullen in being snubbed for a spot.

Smith and Humphries also tweeted of their disappointment at being left out despite their breakthrough seasons.

PDC Chief Executive Matthew Porter said: “It’s always one that provokes plenty of debate.

“I think this year it was especially heavy on people’s minds because there were so many candidates.

“Some years we find it relatively easy to pick the players, but I think this year there were so many players who felt they had a case. But in the same vein, there were perhaps a lot of players who had half a case and not a full case.

“Ultimately, we sit down as a board, we look at every single contender, we analyse their performances and their results over the previous 12 months and then we make a decision, and we know we’re never going to please everybody.”

The 2023 Premier League kicks off on Thursday February 2 and runs from 17 consecutive weeks to May 25.

The weekly knockout format has been retained from last year, with a total prize fund of £1 million on offer. As well as the £10,000 weekly winner’s bonus, points will also be awarded from each night to form the league table from which the top four players will progress to the Play-Offs.

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