Saturday 21 September 2019

Larmour ready to embrace one last challenge

The Big Interview: Jordan Larmour

Jordan Larmour taking to the field alongside Ross Byrne for last Friday’s Captain’s Run. Photo: Sportsfile
Jordan Larmour taking to the field alongside Ross Byrne for last Friday’s Captain’s Run. Photo: Sportsfile

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Munster in the RDS Arena tomorrow at 3.15pm with a place in the Guinness PRO14 final 2018 at stake. That is the focus this week and the chatter from Leinster Rugby HQ would echo that sentiment. But it is hard to look forward to the match ahead without acknowledging the weekend that was.

And for 20-year-old Jordan Larmour, what a weekend it was. A first senior final with Leinster and with it a second medal around his neck in only his first season as a professional. First the Grand Slam with Ireland and now an unbeaten Champions Cup campaign with Leinster.

Jordan Larmour in action against Henry Chavancy of Racing 92. Photo: Sportsfile
Jordan Larmour in action against Henry Chavancy of Racing 92. Photo: Sportsfile

Quite the season.

"I grew up looking at games. Looking at Leinster in finals and dreaming. We all do it, don't we? I remember the Northampton comeback maybe the most and the way they did that and the way they clawed their way back into the game from half-time.

"Brilliant days. I followed that game on the TV and then made sure to get down to the RDS to see the trophy up close and get my photo taken. But I did look on and say maybe. What if. Could I be in that jersey some day?

"So yeah to be in that jersey and to be a Leinster player now and winning titles is surreal."

Jordan Larmour. Photo: Sportsfile
Jordan Larmour. Photo: Sportsfile

Difficult to fully appreciate it yet too you imagine?

"Of course. On the one hand you have to enjoy the moment but by the same token we have Munster coming to the RDS this week and they've had some time to take stock and see how they go about beating us. They probably saw a few things more at the weekend in our game against Racing that they could use on Saturday, so yeah, it's hard to take it all in really when you know what's around the corner.

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"Maybe in a few weeks' time in the down weeks then it will be good to look back and appreciate it that bit more but right now it's all about Munster and I think we have been pretty good I hope at getting the focus right for Saturday."

The mention of a 14-year-old Larmour with the Heineken Cup trophy brings to the fore the scene that greeted him on Sunday at Energia Park as supporters welcomed the team home.

Having left the stage after the official homecoming was over, the players made sure to take selfies and to sign a few autographs. Every squad member stayed behind to make the day that extra bit special.

"Everyone left Donnybrook smiling I think! The players loved it and the reception was great but it was also important to give that time back to all those fans that have been so great and so brilliant supporting us sometimes in the cold and the rain. So it was great for the sun to come out and to see blue skies for them as we brought back the trophy."

Great for the next Jordan Larmour or Alisa Hughes too.

"Absolutely. Hopefully what they see at the RDS or in Donnybrook and then seeing the trophy can inspire the next generation of boys and girls to want to pull on that blue jersey. I know it did for me six, seven years ago."

The sun may have shone on their activities for the homecoming but it was in short supply in Bilbao strangely enough. More Ballsbridge than Bilbao weather.

"The Friday for the Captain's Run was great weather but then it changed. I think it had an impact on the game and it was also a funny one because the pitch was only really wet in the middle because of the way the roof was set up so the ball and the surface was tricky.

"I'm not sure if the conditions came across on the TV but pitch side it was definitely tricky."

As was the last-minute drop goal attempt by Racing 92's Remi Tales. But any kick is tricky when you have six men in blue charging at your right foot.

"I think that just shows the application to work that this group has. Jack (Conan), Fards (Scott Fardy), Ports (Andrew Porter)…them all charging at him. Putting their bodies on the line and trying with all their might to block that kick. It says a lot and I think it just shows how desperate we all were to win that trophy and to put that fourth star on the jersey."

In the build-up to the game Rob Kearney did a piece with Sky Sports and during his piece he spoke about the experience of previous finals and 2009 with Ireland in particular.

"It's about showcasing all your years of hard work and not going into your shell," he said.

So as the Tales kick drifted to the left and wide with 80 minutes on the match clock, did the former St Andrew's man take Kearney's advice on board?

"I think so. You have to enjoy it don't you?

"That plays out differently during the game when you are trying to stay focused and you are trying to stay in the game and the next job but you have to try to enjoy the build-up and then of course once the whistle goes to embrace it all."

So who did he embrace with first?

"I actually spotted a fella that was a year behind me in school, Ben Ryan, and we got a quick selfie so that was good craic.

"And then I saw my girlfriend Lucy's parents, Philip and Jackie, and I went over to them. It was brilliant seeing those familiar faces and being able to share those moments with them."

His own parents couldn't make it but instead gathered some of their closest family and friends to Bistro One in Foxrock where they all enjoyed a private sitting in front of a TV with some food and a drink or two.

But they'll be there on Saturday. As will their boy, ready to go again in a huge game.

"There is never much between Leinster and Munster and I've experienced that already this season. I suppose we know each other so well and that's before you even get into the rivalry that goes back years and years.

"We know they will try to bring a physicality to the table and to target us. We know there will be box-kicks. So we have to try to put everything that went last weekend to the back of our minds and to prepare well and to train hard.

"Because come Saturday it's the chance to play in the RDS for the last time this season, a last home game for Isa and Jordi but most importantly to take a step towards another final. We all want that. We are all ready to go again and to hopefully have one more special day out this season."

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