Cayman’s national darts team have reason to be cautiously optimistic about the Caribbean Championships.
Some notable figures are absent from the side, training lasted essentially 30 days and numerous strong countries are taking part in the 2012 Caribbean Cup in Belize City, Belize until 30 July.
Team manager Cassius Anglin states it has been far from an ideal build-up.
“It has been a long, rough road,” Anglin said. “At one point, it didn’t feel like we would have a team. It formed about a month ago with training at Mango Tree bar twice a week. We were at the Corner Pocket bar once a week before they closed down.
“Some of the top players on Island like Earl Smith, Richard Campbell and Edsell Haylock couldn’t make it this year. Saying that, we’re still a strong team. We still feel like we can compete at the highest level. The last two years we came fourth and I feel this year we can achieve the same goal if not better, considering some of the top guys are missing.”
The Caribbean Championships is in its 19th year and runs alongside the sixth annual World Darts Federation Americas Cup. In addition to Cayman, the other competitors are Bahamas, Barbados, host Belize, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, the US (through a Florida squad and a select team), Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos.
Cayman placed fourth overall in Abaco, Bahamas in 2010, matching their best finish from the 2008 event in Trinidad. In 2008, Edsell Haylock became the Caribbean singles champion. His absence in 2012 compounds the loss of Smith, who has vast experience in regional competitions from his days representing the Bahamas and Campbell, who is arguably the best local prodigy.
For head coach Eddie Ballantyne, those facts should not prevent another solid showing for Cayman.
“It’s a very good team, even though we don’t have some of the best players like Earl,” Ballantyne said. “We have a good team with great team spirit. I’m expecting of us a top four finish again. I pushed for us to go to Belize. Everyone has to travel to other countries to play darts there and each country should host events like that.
“I have no worries about Belize. They have a fantastic venue and I’m assured they (the Belize Darts Federation) will put on a top event.”
In addition to Ballantyne and Anglin, the Cayman team consists of Hank Ebanks, Nethina Ebanks, Jasper Esguerra, Carol Johnson, Neville Parker, Miriam Rodriguez, Norrin Stewart, Mel Tagalog and Michelle Terry. Cayman Islands Darts Association President Paul Anglin serves as team captain and Cliff Weeks is vice captain.
In spite of the issues heading into the tournament, Paul remains wholly confident.
“The important thing is, whoever the opponent is, we got three darts and they got three darts,” Paul said. “We got a pretty good management team and we have to focus and have no distractions.
“I just want to say a big thank you to the sponsors. We’re grateful to the persons who did manage to sponsor us. Without them, this trip would not be possible.”