Tuesday 27 September 2016

We are up against the form team - Kearney

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Published 13/05/2016 | 02:30

Leinster’s Mick Kearney is wary of the threat posed by Ulster in the Pro12 semi-finals. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster’s Mick Kearney is wary of the threat posed by Ulster in the Pro12 semi-finals. Photo: Sportsfile

As weekends go, it was an eventful one for Clontarf native Mick Kearney. A starter for Leinster against Treviso in the RDS on Saturday, an Awards Ball straight after and then an AIL Final the next day in the Aviva for his home club on Castle Avenue. There was also the small matter of his 'first' Leinster try...

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"No, I let Jordi take that one. I said I'll take the injury, you take the plaudits!"

He is of course referring to the driving maul that ended up with him in a heap on the floor and as the referee raised his arm to signal a try, no Leinster player emerged with the ball to celebrate and any one of Murphy, Kearney or Sean Cronin were left as the most likely of contenders for the five-pointer. It was left to the good people in Sportsfile to set the record straight with a few well-timed snaps.

"It was announced over the PA after a bit of a pause so I think everyone was trying to figure it out. My dad even rang me after the game to congratulate me but it was definitely Jordi's.

"But leaving that aside it was a great weekend I suppose for Leinster to finish top of the Guinness Pro12 and then for the club Clontarf to bring the AIL trophy back to the Bull Ring. A very proud moment for everyone involved with the club."

Illness

The day may have ended with Leinster on top of the Guinness Pro12 but the day couldn't have started much worse for his second-row colleague Devin Toner, who had to cry off with illness. For 25-year-old Kearney, it was still business as usual and it gave others, most notably Ross Molony, their chance.

"You just get on with it and still have to execute your own job. You'd swear Ross is around 35 years of age, such a calm head. He came in and ran the lineout brilliantly. It was at relatively short notice with Dev missing out but Ross had stepped in well all week and he knew his detail.

"But the whole pack did well, I feel. I suppose the front-row were quite wary of Treviso after the performance they put in against Connacht, so that was a massive focus as well. We were happy to get one or two penalties off that."

All the talk since then though has been of a defensive system that has been rock-solid for 20 rounds of the Pro12 but has suddenly shipped six tries in two games.

"It was quite disappointing in the second half the way we let them in for a few, but that's another work-on for us over the next week.

"We had the game won I suppose but we have standards defensively, so it is still quite disappointing to let them in."

With the regular season out of the way and with a few days break also behind him, it goes without saying that all eyes are on Ulster next Friday.

"We're raring to go and can't wait to run out at a packed RDS. We were obviously unbelievably disappointed with the Ulster result a few weeks back, but we're looking forward to having them here at home and a massive atmosphere at the RDS. Hopefully we can rectify the performance we put in up in Belfast."

You'd wager that they won't be lacking motivation for the game after the 30-6 Ulster defeat?

"It was embarrassing, individually and collectively. You're expecting to go up there and do a job but we went back down the road with our tail between our legs. So there is that element but that can't influence our thinking too much. It is a stand-alone game, cup rugby with a place in the Pro12 Final at stake. That in itself will focus the minds plenty."

After an injury-delayed start, the 6ft 5ins second-row now has seven games and a run of games under his belt. He's enjoying it.

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

"It's great to finally be able to contribute from a playing point of view and I'm really enjoying it but this is now the biggest ten days of the season and we all have to front up."

There is also the small matter of massive competition for only three second-row slots in the match-day 23. No guarantees.

"The thing about Leinster is one bad training session, or if you don't come in fully ready to train, you're down to the bottom of the barrel again. Leo keeps everyone guessing so we'll just have to wait and see."

As he gets set to prepare for the biggest game of the season for Leinster, he is also setting his sights on matters off the pitch. Kearney is keeping a close eye on goings on with Cycle Ataxia, a charity cycle event set up by his cousin to support those living with Freidrich's Ataxia in Ireland. They are only a few weeks away from their main event which raises funds for those living with Freidrich's Ataxia, which is a debilitating, life-shortening, degenerative neuro-muscular disorder.

"I was first put in touch with Ataxia Ireland through my IRUPA rep but then my cousin Barry Rice had also set up an event, Cycle Ataxia, to help fundraise for Ataxia sufferers.

Routes

"The event is in Ashbourne on the 18th June and it has gone from strength to strength. It had 200 cyclists the first year and that increased the second year, the third year and this year they hope to have over 700 cyclists taking part which would be great. There are four different routes as well to cater for all levels so hopefully we'll get a good buy-in again this year."

To on-field matters, all the talk is of Ulster but there is the small matter that in the other Play-off his old club Connacht face off against reigning champions Glasgow.

"Obviously I'm not looking that far ahead. But I missed the trip to the Sportsground a few weeks back so yeah, if you were to call a dream final pairing for me, that would be it. To play Connacht in the final.

"But we both have some way to go before that is even on the table and we're playing an Ulster team that are probably the form team at present. They've won four on the bounce and have beaten the top two plus the Ospreys away from home in that time so I've enough to be concerned with for now!"

Maybe so but a man can dream. For further information on Ataxia Ireland or on Cycle Ataxia, please visit www.ataxia.ie or check out www.cycleataxia.ie

Irish Independent

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