Daryl Gurney says the biggest obstacle to becoming world darts champion lies between his ears.
The 34-year-old Derry man takes on tournament second favourite Gerwyn Price in the quarter-finals of the World Championship this evening at Alexandra Palace.
Gurney, who has two PDC majors under his belt, entered the competition as number 11 seed but a disappointing year on the circuit led to some commentators predicting an early exit for 'Superchin'.
However, he held off a comeback by Limerick's Willie O'Connor in his first game before comfortably seeing off the challenge of Chris Dobey.
That was followed up by a gritty win over Vincent van der Voort on Wednesday.
In a year that has produced an unprecedented range of major winners in Peter Wright, Michael van Gerwen, Dimitri van den Bergh, Price, Jose de Sousa, and Glen Durrant in the Premier League, there is no reason why Gurney can't add his name to the list.
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"Yeah, just in between my ears," the 2017 Grand Prix winner told RTÉ Sport.
"If I can turn off the little negative thought that's in between my ears I'll be positive enough to beat anybody. But I think it still comes down to a bit of luck.
"My results haven't been great [this year] so I never listen to the pundits anyway, I never listen to the comments or whatever is going on.
"Even if I was winning every tournament I still wouldn't be listening if they turn around and say I'm favourite to win it or favourite to go out.
"It's just a matter of getting the hard work done on the practice board, dedicating myself and getting myself ready for the World Championships.
"I've been doing two-and-a-half hours a day for the last month or more and it has paid off and I'm getting the reward now."
Gurney's Northern Ireland team-mate Brendan Dolan brought Price all the way to a final-leg decider in their third-round clash and that has given the 2018 Players Championship Finals winner added belief that he can upset the odds.
?????????? ???????? ?? ????????????????!— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) December 28, 2020
Gerwyn Price is just so strong when he needs to be!
A brilliant 72 finish on tops for Price to win a deciding leg against Brendan Dolan.
What a battle that was! pic.twitter.com/ObRODfHMgs
"I'm a firm believer that to be the best you've got to beat the best and for most time this year I think Gezzy Price has been the best player," he said of the Grand Prix champion.
"Whenever Brendan played Gezzy, he could have beaten him quite easily if he had hit double 11 for the 79 finish.
"I think then in the final set Gezzy was sitting on a double after nine darts and Brendan kind of gave up and if he hadn't given up he could have come back and won that leg.
"If he won that leg he could have won the match but Brendan could have quite easily have beaten him.
"But Gezzy showed why he's one of the best players in the world by taking out a great 72 in the deciding leg.
"Brendan knows and I know I can score slightly heavier than Brendan but if I can give myself the same opportunities that Brendan did we can come out with a win."
Price, who could be the new world number one if he goes on to win the tournament, said: "Daryl is a fantastic player and I'll have to be at my best to beat him but I'm determined to go on and win the tournament because I've got my eyes on that world number one spot.
"Daryl...can just turn it on. Also I know [he's] got that negativity in the back of [his] head that he hasn't played well for six months.
"So if I can pounce early and get that doubt back in his head because he's played rubbish for six months, I can come through that game."
???????????? ????????— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) December 30, 2020
Daryl Gurney finally puts Van der Voort away, with his seventh match dart and he beats him 4-2!
?? Up next ?? Ryan Searle v Stephen Bunting pic.twitter.com/oGHf9FVJ8I
Gurney, who averaged 93.65 against Van der Voort, feels he is edging back towards his best form and it's evident in his action.
"Whenever I had my best years, probably 2017 and 2018, my first dart was always in the treble and it made life so much easier for the second and third dart," he said.
"If you go treble first dart you are more or less guaranteed a ton and if you follow it up you are hitting 180s and obviously you are putting your opponent under pressure.
"I have been more conscious of that and concentrating on the first dart, trying to get it where I want it instead of flinging it up there and hoping to hit a 20 and then working from there, trying to hit two trebles after that.
"But if you are hitting the treble first it makes life a wee bit easier."
?????? ??????????????-???????????? ??— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) December 30, 2020
We are down to the last eight... Here's how the Quarter-Finals will play out on New Year's Day as we kick off 2021 with a bang! pic.twitter.com/J9mlWPW0XA