Sunday 11 December 2016

Kearney hoping for 'dream' final

Published 13/05/2016 | 02:30

Leinster's Mick Kearney during squad training at the RDS, Ballsbridge. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster's Mick Kearney during squad training at the RDS, Ballsbridge. Photo: Sportsfile

His focus may entirely be on Ulster and next Friday's last-four clash but, deep down, Mick Kearney is hoping that he comes face to face with Connacht in the Pro12 final.

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Kearney joined his home province last year following a successful four-year spell with the Westerners in which he enhanced his reputation during the 67 times he played for them.

The prize at stake at the RDS next week is obvious but the small matter of revenge for what happened in Belfast two weeks ago is still very much fresh in the minds of both the Leinster players and their supporters.

Ulster were comfortably the better side that afternoon but with Leinster's semi-final place already assured and the fact that there was also a good chance that the two sides would have met again in the play-offs, perhaps their eye was taken off the ball slightly.

"100pc, yeah," Kearney smiled when asked if playing his former side in the Edinburgh final on May 28 would be the ideal scenario for him.

"Obviously I'm not looking that far ahead. I'm looking at Ulster now and trying to get one back on them. But it would be a dream for me to play Connacht in the final."

It's been an injury-ravaged debut season for Kearney but he has bounced back well from a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Last week's appearance against Treviso was his seventh of the Pro12 campaign and assuming that he recovers from the fresh shoulder injury that prematurely ended his involvement, he will be hoping to have done enough to earn a start against Ulster.

"It feels great. I've done a few interviews at this stage and I've said that you can't really affect the culture when you're sitting in the gym on an exercise bike," he maintained.

"It's great to be finally able to contribute from a playing point of view and I'm really enjoying it.

"The thing about Leinster is one bad training session, if you don't come into training on Monday with your head on, if you don't come in fully ready to train and you put in a bad shift, you're down to the bottom of the barrel again.

"An Academy guy can knock you off your block. Leo (Cullen) keeps everyone guessing. I'd love to think that I'm in a decent position at the moment but it's very wait and see at the moment."

Despite the facile win over the Italians, Kearney admitted that the players and the coaches were not getting carried away and instead were probably more concerned by the fact that they allowed a dreadful Treviso outfit in for three late tries.

Ulster are high on confidence having racked up four straight wins, including the one over Leinster, but Kearney knows that his side have plenty of room for improvement, particularly in defence.

"I suppose we can only play what's in front of us but we will be disappointed with stages in that second half where we let them come at us a small bit," the second-row said.

"We dropped to their standard and they got over for a few cheap scores. We make pledges to each other at half time about defence and we say that we want to keep teams out and we want to keep a clean sheet. We obviously didn't do that and that's a very disappointing aspect for us.

"I would love to be able to tell you why things dropped off a small bit. I suppose the ground is getting a small bit harder, guys are getting off the ground a bit quicker in attack so we need to have a big focus on setting the line early.

"That's something that we'll definitely bring in to the next couple of weeks."

Irish Independent

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