He was only a chap when he first got a taste of the intense and passionate rivalry of Leinster V Munster, but from that day he was as the cliche says “under no illusions” as to what it meant.
Andrew Porter is a native of Clonegal in Carlow where the family is still farming.
His Dad Ernie played for Carlow and was a major factor in Carlow winning the Provincial Towns Cup in 1977. His uncle George Porter won an Anderson Cup medal with Carlow in 1984 and his first cousin Lennie Peavoy was an outstanding scrumhalf for Carlow at the time the club went to the top of the All Ireland League.
Andrew has said he has fond memories as a teenager of spending Summers on the Clonegal farm and going to Oakpark with his Dad to watch Carlow and his cousin playing in the Town’s cup and the AIL.
His love for the game started there, and his rugby ability was spotted when he was in St Andrews School in Dublin where Tony Ward was coaching. Roll on the years and now he’s a solid figure in Leinster and Ireland’s front row and will be for some time.
From having watched his beloved Leinster play, now he’s an important part of that machine, and what comes with it, including doing the blue jersey proud when you head into the cauldron that is Thomond Park in Limerick for the inter-pro clashes.
Blue versus Red
Speaking to the media this week ahead of this weekend’s PRO 14 derby clash, Andrew Porter says that the Leinster-Munster rivalry started for him when he went to the European Cup semi-final between the sides at Croke Park back in 2009.
The prop was just a 13-year-old at the time when Leinster turned in a 25-6 win against their biggest rivals to go on and win a first European title.
That was the day things changed for Leinster, they had finally got the upper hand on Munster, after all the slagging and jeering over the years and holding their two European titles over Leinster’s heads. Johnny Sexton was born that day, not literally but as a world class out-half.
I was there myself, in the Cusack Stand on the end line right in front of where Gordon Darcy went over for the try where the infamous picture was taken of Johnny Sexton shouting down to Ronan O’Gara on the ground.
The crowd was deafening, 82,208 people watched that game, that number sticks in my head to this day, the atmosphere was nothing like I’d ever experienced, and the only thing to come close to it for me personally since is the 2011 Heineken Cup final in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The feeling after beating Munster in a Heineken Cup semi final when they were at the height of their game was something else, and to be honest, Munster have come no where near that dominance since.
After the game, genuine Munster supporters came over and swapped flags, shook hands, said “well done” and “go on now and win it”. That was nice, proper sportsmanship. The Lunster fans (Munster fans from Leinster) just kept a low profile and kept the head down walking up the Jones’ Road.
Anyway, the thing is, the rivalry is something else, it’s magic, not only is it good oul banter between fans, but it makes better players in the provinces. They love to out-class their opposite number in a game, especially when there’s an international cap up for grabs in that position.
A Huge Game
Andrew Porter says regarding the 2009 Heineken Cup semi final “I think that’s where it started for me (rivalry) and it’s grown and grown over the last few years, especially when you’re playing down in Thomond Park,” he said.
“It’s a huge game and it’s always been one of those that you look forward to in the calendar. It’s a shame we didn’t get to play them on Stephen’s Day but ever since we found out that we’d be playing them this weekend, it’s been at the forefront of all of our minds.”
Munster are going well so far this season sitting top of Conference B after nine games with an 11-point cushion to second-placed Connacht, their only defeat this season was away to Ulster.
“They’ve been playing some really good rugby, especially coming back against Clermont,” Porter says.
“They’ve only lost one game in the PRO14 this season and are unbeaten at home as well. It’s going to be a good challenge for us, going down to Thomond Park and playing a team of the calibre that Munster are.
“It’s a huge test but it’s something we’re relishing. It’s one of those games that everyone is looking forward to and I think the people at home will be looking forward to it as well. It’s really exciting.” Porter added.
The Guinness PRO14 clash between Munster Rugby and Leinster Rugby at Thomond Park takes place on Saturday, 23 January (KO 7.35pm)