Members of Carlow Rugby Club had a special interest last Saturday in the young man with 3 on his back who took the field at the Aviva Stadium in the International against Fiji.
Indeed they regard this tighthead prop Andrew Porter as “one of their own” as 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.
The Porter family hail from Clonegal where they are still farming.
Speaking to the Nationalist this week Andrew had fond memories as a teenager of spending Summers on the Clonegal farm. He also recalls coming to Oakpark with his Dad to watch Carlow and his cousin playing in the Town’s cup and the AIL.
Andrew Porter’s rugby prowess was spotted early when he attended St Andrews School in Dublin where Tony Ward was coaching. His first taste of International honours came when he was selected for the Irish Under 18 side. This was followed by two years playing with Ireland Under 20’s.This under 20 team was probably one of the best ever to represent Ireland reaching a World Cup Final and beating the All Blacks on the way. Others from this Under 20’s team to already have full caps include Jacob Stockdale from Ulster and James Ryan from Leinster.
Although barely 21 Andrew Porter was selected for the Irish side which toured the USA and Japan during the Summer. Last Saturday was his first “home” cap and he is now back in the Irish Camp training for the Argentine game next Saturday. Since he and Tadgh Furlong are the only tighthead props in camp Porter looks set to add to his caps on Saturday.
After his Leaving Cert Andrew went straight into the Leinster Rugby Academy but is already on a full Leinster contract. Up till joining Leinster all his rugby was played on the loosehead side of the scrum. But with a conveyor belt of looseheads in the Leinster queue, (including Ed Byrne from Carlow) Andrew made the switch to the more difficult tighthead side. In making this transition he was greatly helped by the retiring Mike Ross. “At Leinster Mike has been my mentor giving me excellent advice.”
Andrew Porter is trying to juggle his rugby career with studying for an Economics and Geography degree in UCD. After the Fijian match it was back into the Irish Camp with Joe Schmidt. “At the camp the concentration is on training quality rather than quantity of training. I found that moving from Under 20’s to senior rugby was a big step up in pace and intensity. The Fijians were very strong and played a high tempo game but we felt that Ireland could have won by more, and would have, but for their intercept try on half time.”
For many people the dark art of rugby scrum front row play is a mystery and that scrum penalties are a lottery as to which team referees side with. Andrew Porter reckons that some referees are aware of what’s happening but others aren’t.
Either way the cauldron in the middle of the scrum is no spot for weaklings. At six foot one and 120 kg in weight Andrew Porter is well equipped to holding his own against most of the behemoths that appear the world over in the front of scrums.
He actually delights in the physical side of the training. In the gym he is “benching” 185 to 190 kg which is up there with Cian Healy and ahead of Jack McGrath.
Given the heavy hits in today’s top level rugby, parents and family can be apprehensive about their children playing the game. Ernie Porter shares this concern when Andrew takes the field but this is outweighed by the tremendous pride from the fact that a son of Clonegal has pulled on the Irish jersey. Sadly Andrew’s mother Wendy passed away just as he was about to start in secondary school. His two older sisters Erica and Lee are also into sport. Within the family he has been described as the baby. Some baby!
When he rejoins Leinster after the Autumn internationals, Andrew Porter will be back with a long line of current team mates with Carlow attachments. This list includes his front row colleagues Bryan and Ed Byrne, outhalf cum centreTom Daly and of course, the trailblazer himself Tullow’s Sean O Brien.
Members of Carlow rugby club would dearly love to see all of these players still plying their wares at Oakpark in the black and amber. But – Dream on.