Good Friday derby still a 'special day' for Wigan Warriors legend Andy Farrell
Andy Farrell might be based in Ireland now and have switched codes to rugby union long ago.
But come Friday morning, Andy Farrell will wake up with just one thing on his mind: the Wigan v St Helens derby.
One of Wigan’s favourite sons, Farrell led the Warriors in their golden era of dominance and sampled many a Good Friday derby against the old enemy Saints.
He went on to win international honours in both codes and is now Ireland’s assistant coach heading into a rugby union World Cup.
Dublin has been his home since 2016 – and he will take over as head coach of the men in green at the end of the year – but the fire for his hometown still burns bright.
“I am a Wigan supporter now and I am looking forward to the day,” he said.
“I will be as excited as anyone waking up on Friday morning knowing that I will have a good day ahead of me.
“What matters is Friday, a special time in the calendar, people have time off work and it’s a great day out for everyone involved.
“The expectation and the bragging rights last quite a long time, so it is just as important as any derby in the past.”
Farrell won just about everything he could as a Wigan legend, including six league crowns and three Challenge Cups and made over 350 appearances for the club.
But the game that stands out above all others in his career in Cherry & White is a derby with Saints back in 1999 – the final game the Warriors played at their old home of Central Park.
“The derbies would be the first games that you would look for, I couldn’t give it any more credit than saying that they were just as important as any game you were going to have over the season,” he added.
“That includes Wembley, or Old Trafford, or wherever it may be, a home or an away derby was just as important as any of those.
“I hold the Wigan v St Helens derby match in such high esteem.
“When Wigan were leaving Central Park, our last game there was against Saints, there couldn’t have been any more pressure on us to win that game.
“Imagine leaving the home of rugby – I think of it as that anyway – having lost that last game to your rivals at the time! it would have been very painful.
“You look at Test matches, or Wigan v Broncos in 1994 but we were underdogs there with nothing to lose, we had everything to lose at Central Park.”
Jason Robinson ended up being the hero with two solo scores and this Friday the 355th derby is on the line, and Farrell cannot wait.
“In 1999 we as Wiganers in our squad were trying to pass on to any of our teammates that weren’t from here, just what it meant to the town,” he added.
“It was an emotional week and that coincided with an unbelievable performance but one that was good enough to get the win on the day and the relief afterwards.
“There are other rivalries, Warrington v St Helens, Wigan and Warrington etc, but for me the derby between Wigan and St Helens is the one that runs deep with people from the towns.
“And the clubs have always been successful throughout decades of the game, it all adds to the rivalry.”
Wigan Warriors take on St Helens in the fiercest rivalry in rugby league at the DW Stadium on Friday April 19th, kick-off 3pm. Secure your seat today by calling the DW Stadium ticket office on 01942 311111 or by visiting https://wiganwarriors.com/tickets.