Kearney relishing Healy battle as Blues look to bounce back
Published 25/03/2016 | 02:30
Right across the Sportsground pitch tomorrow there will be plenty of fascinating sub-plots as old rivals not only look to steal the bragging rights but also to get one over on their opposite number.
The dust had barely settled on Ireland's Six Nations campaign and Joe Schmidt was licking his lips at the prospect of watching the upcoming inter-provincial derbies.
For Dave Kearney, tomorrow's top of the table clash is another chance to get more game time under his belt following a five-week lay-off with a shoulder injury suffered against France in Paris.
Kearney has been a favourite of Schmidt while for Connacht, they have a Leinster-born winger of their own who many feel should be given a chance on the international stage.
Matt Healy was born in Dublin and went to Gonzaga College but he was never picked up by Leinster and instead forged his own path to Connacht via the All-Ireland League.
The 27-year old is the top try scorer in the Pro12 and he will be eager to add to his nine touchdowns this season.
To many, Healy is a late bloomer but Kearney always knew that his former team-mate had the ability to play at the highest level.
"He's had a really good season. I grew up playing with Matt in Leinster schools, Ireland schools, in the Academy, sub-Academy," Kearney said.
"I played at Lansdowne with him as well. Yeah, he's a great player. He played scrum-half, and then moved to wing. He's able to play those positions, he's a really powerful runner.
"He's quick, got good acceleration and he's had a great season. I'm not sure who'll be playing or who won't be playing, but you want to play against the best wingers."
Tiernan O'Halloran is another who has enjoyed a fine season with Connacht and like Healy, Kearney will be looking to use his past experience to nullify his attacking threat.
"Tiernan was a year below me I think, but I've played with Tiernan a couple of times as well," Kearney recalled.
"He can play wing or full-back, he's played centre before as well. He's a good player, good skills. He's a natural footballer.
"He would have grown up playing Gaelic as well, so he's got good skills. Good in the air, likes to attack. He's a good player.
"I've played with him in the tour to Tbilisi (Emerging Ireland). There's no shortage of back-three players in the country. It's such a competitive spot, sometimes it's hard."
Individual battles aside, Leinster need a collective performance after last week's disappointing defeat in Glasgow but Kearney insists that his side have moved on.
"We're in a good position now. We would have been in a better position if we had gotten a good result at the weekend," he said.
"It would have been good to put Glasgow away, but they're still in the hunt now.
"Connacht are going really well. They've probably been the most consistent team in the league this year. It'd be great to go up there and knock them off the top spot."