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Kearney ready to deliver knock-out show

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25 March 2013; Leinster's Dave Kearney in action during squad training ahead of their side's Celtic League 2012/2013, Round 19, match against Ulster on Saturday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training and Media Briefing, Rosemount, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

25 March 2013; Leinster's Dave Kearney in action during squad training ahead of their side's Celtic League 2012/2013, Round 19, match against Ulster on Saturday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training and Media Briefing, Rosemount, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

25 March 2013; Leinster's Dave Kearney in action during squad training ahead of their side's Celtic League 2012/2013, Round 19, match against Ulster on Saturday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training and Media Briefing, Rosemount, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

HE IS still the forgotten man of Irish rugby. Well, not quite.

It has now been close to five weeks and concussion victim Dave Kearney is finally close to providing all the physical assurances required that he is ready to return to the game.

It was revealed at the Leinster press conference last Monday that Kearney would follow his return-to-play protocol that very afternoon.

There is a mandatory three-week spell on the sidelines for concussion. Every player takes a cognitive test at the start of the season, establishing a baseline against which all subsequent tests are measured.

The test examines various constituent parts like reaction, logical thinking and thought process. The good news was that Kearney passed the cognitive test last week.

The bad news was that he still had symptoms of concussion, thus putting himself outside the squad for the Pro12 League semi-final against Glasgow on Saturday.

The sacrifice that the Louth wing man has had to pay in game time to ensure his physical health was a gift Andrew Conway took with a hat-trick of tries against the Ospreys.

Presumably, Conway will take the road south to Munster for a two-year contract this summer on the basis of how far back he was in the Leinster wing queue for game time. One more Luke Fitzgerald injury, one Dave Kearney concussion and one hat-trick later, he was right in the mix for the Pro12 League semi-final until Gordon D'Arcy's recovery from a calf injury pushed Fergus McFadden to the flank.

 

Concern

Now that D'Arcy is Leinster's main injury concern with a calf injury for the Amlin Challenge Cup final, McFadden could be returned to the No 12 jersey, leaving Conway and a fit-again Kearney to battle it out for the second wing slot on Friday night.

The knockout blow to Kearney not only took him out of the Leinster first team, it also did damage to his prospects of earning his first Ireland cap on the North American tour in international Tests against Canada and the United States next month.

There are two matches left in Leinster's season. It is up in the air whether Kearney will be able to force coach Joe Schmidt's hand for club selection.

It may be a different matter for Ireland. Schmidt does not have to be convinced of Kearney's worth.

Despite a hip injury that ruined his summer and the start of this season, and the controversial incident with Paul O'Connell, Kearney must now concentrate on forgetting the knockout blow altogether.

How he performs in training this week, under the eye of Schmidt, could just win him a place for Leinster in the Amlin Cup final and a seat on the plane to North America.


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