Fan rivalry: 9 things to know ahead of Leinster v Munster clash
From the first clash to supporters clubs, sibling rivalry to 100-year-old pubs, the Leinster v Munster rivalry is the story of rugby
The tribal nature of Leinster and Munster games has proven to be the one of the big draws for supporters in recent times
The Aviva Stadium is the place to be on Saturday, October 8, as one of the biggest rivalries in Irish sports begins its latest chapter. Leinster and Munster will face each other for the first time in the 2016/17 season, and with an official attendance of 43,108 at the Aviva when the two sides met in April, it is anticipated that a large crowd will descend upon Lansdowne Road once more.
With Irish head coach Joe Schmidt set to keep a watchful eye on this hotly-anticipated encounter, it is an ideal opportunity for the young players in both squads to showcase their talents.
Garry Ringrose, Dan Leavy and Joey Carbery are expected to play prominent roles for Leo Cullen's Leinster this season, while Munster will be hoping that Darren Sweetnam, Jack O'Donoghue and Dan Goggins can continue to build on their current rate of progress.
Much had been written about the enduring rivalry between these teams (and the part that fans have played) in recent years, but when you examine the overall history of Leinster and Munster games, it reveals a number of interesting facts and figures:
Origins of Leinster and Munster: 1879
A year on from the formation of the IRFU, the Leinster Branch was inaugurated in a meeting at Lawrence's premises on Dublin's Grafton Street on 31 October, 1879. Munster and Ulster were also officially founded in the same year, and following the arrival of Connacht ten years later, all four provinces in Ireland were firmly established on the rugby scene.
1946-47 Interprovincial Championship
It was in 1946 that the Interprovincial Championships were introduced, and it continued as a standalone competition until the Celtic League commenced in 2001. Leinster claimed the spoils against Munster with four points to spare (15-11) in their opening Championship clash, but with three victories from as many games, it was Ulster who secured the first of 26 official title wins.
Pro12 Attendance Record
Those who are in doubt about the role fans have played in the rivalry between Leinster and Munster in the Celtic League/Pro12 era only have to look at the attendance records that games between the two have set since the turn of the century.
A new Pro12 crowd record of 50,645 was set for Leinster’s 13-9 win over their southern rivals at the Aviva Stadium on 2 October 2010, but this was eventually surpassed by the 51,700 who packed the same ground on 29 March 2014.
Croke Park 2009
While the supporters of the Blue and Red Armies ensure their voices are heard in the Aviva Stadium and Thomond Park each season, there is nothing that quite compares to the atmosphere generated at Dublin's Croke Park in May 2009. The attendance of 82,208 for Leinster’s Heineken Cup semi-final victory over defending champions Munster at GAA HQ was (at the time) a world record for a club rugby union game.
The Wallace brothers - Richard, Paul and David - have played a significant role in the history of both Leinster and Munster, with Richard (1995-97) and David (1997-2012) enjoying memorable spells with Munster - whereas Paul had two stints with Leinster. However, the Fogarty brothers - Denis and John - have had crucial parts in the recent successes of both provinces. They were the respective replacement hookers for Munster and Leinster’s Heineken Cup final victories in 2006 and 2009.
Crowe’s: A Family Tradition
It was 100 years ago that Crowe’s Pub on Merrion Road was established by Timothy and Catherine Crowe. They hailed from Limerick and Tipperary, but the current proprietor of the pub - David Crowe - can proudly came to be related to eight men who have represented Leinster at the senior grade.
A traditional family-owned venue, Crowe’s is regarded as the oldest and most famous rugby pub in Dublin, and includes the Triple Crown-winning rugby ball from 1982 amongst its reservoir of sporting memorabilia.
2002/03 Competitive Hiatus
Since that first meeting, Leinster and Munster games have been synonymous with the Irish rugby calendar. However, although they did play out a 6-6 interprovincial draw at Musgrave Park, there was no Celtic League clash between the two teams in the 2002/03 campaign. The structure of the competition ensured that the provinces were in separate Pools, and thanks to Leinster’s failure to reach the knockout stages, they were kept apart for the only time since the league’s inception.
Most Capped Players in Opposing Provinces
The tribal nature of Leinster and Munster games has proven to be the one of the big draws for supporters in recent times, but it has become common for players to switch between the two provinces.
With 140 caps to his name, recently-retired Limerick man Eoin Reddan is the most-capped Munster native in Leinster’s history, but with just two fewer appearances at the time of writing, veteran prop Mike Ross (who hails from Fermoy, Co Cork) is expected to overtake him this season.
Clontarf’s Ian Keatley (131 appearances) is presently the most active Leinster man in the Munster first-team, but John Kelly (born in Dublin, but mainly raised in Cork) claimed 150 caps during a glittering career with the Red Army.
An essential initiative in developing the fanbases of Leinster and Munster has been the establishment of Supporters Clubs in both provinces. The Official Leinster Supporters Club (OLSC) was formally set-up in 2007, but their Munster counterparts have been in existence since 1999.
Keeping a strong connection with those abroad has also become a priority. Munster have established supporters branches in London, Brussels and the US, while the OLSC has a presence in London, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and New York.
For tickets to Leinster v Munster visit www.ticketmaster.ie