Third time lucky for Kearney as he prepares for London

Des Berry

ROB KEARNEY is the best full-back in Europe, maybe the world. He has won a Grand Slam with Ireland. He has lorded it at full-back for the 2009 British & Irish Lions.

But, he has never started and played through a Heineken Cup final. While Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy kept a straight face at the final whistle of a tumultuous semi-final in Bordeaux, Kearney wasn't quite as restrained.

"I had weird emotions going through me. I have had so much Heineken heartache over the last three years. I have never played in the European Cup final," he said.

"I got the mumps in 2009. I couldn't make it back for the final. I was on the bench for that one against Leicester Tigers at Murrayfield.

"Then, I was sidelined with injury last year, and I wasn't part of the win over Northampton Saints in the Millennium Stadium.

"I felt those. It is the thing in my club career that I most desperately want to do. I want to start in and win a Heineken Cup final. I felt this year was as good an opportunity as ever."

That is why the emotion of the final whistle flooded through him more than the many others around him who were there in 2009 and 2011.

"There was a real sense of doing whatever it took to win in Bordeaux to put us in the position to play in the final at Twickenham," he said.

"If I hadn't missed out on 2009 and 2011, I definitely would have been deadpan in my reaction because nothing has been achieved yet."

More than that, there is an honest appraisal of Leinster's fortune rather than any clinical play on their part that was the difference at the death.

"We were incredibly lucky to win. We were. You give (Wesley) Fofana that ball 99 more times and he would score every time.

"Our lineout was poor. We gave a lot of needless penalties away. Would there have been yellow cards from a different referee? Maybe. Who knows?"

For the moment, Leinster will prepare for the last PRO12 League match of the regular season. It is away to the Dragons at Rodney Parade, far from the potential glory of Twickenham as the possibility of a PRO12-Heineken double grows.

"You always want to set records and make history. The double, in itself, is not important to us. What is important is to take things one by one. This week is all about the Dragons away. The following week it will be the semi-final against whoever that will be. It is just about playing and staying in the moment."

Leinster want the PRO12 League and their third Heineken in four years.

Kearney wants to be there in the middle if, or when, it happens. For the first time.