Thursday 22 February 2018

Dave Kearney: 'I want to take my opportunities when they come'

With only six games to his name this season, winger is eager to make up for lost time, starting against Ospreys

Dave Kearney doing some stretches at squad training. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Dave Kearney doing some stretches at squad training. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Spare a thought for Mr and Mrs Kearney. So often used to seeing and cheering on their boys in blue, lately there has been a lot less seeing and no cheering at all.

A run of bad luck hits most athletes at some stage in their careers but when it happens at the same time to the brothers Kearney, it puts a strain on even the most patient of parents.

"A lot of mixed emotions in the house this year definitely with Rob and me living together," explains younger sibling Dave.

"You could say it hasn't been the best place alright. However bad it has been for us two and dealing with our injuries and seeing the other going through their own situation, I think our parents go through it worse again.

"Whereas usually they'd have at least one if not both of us to cheer on, this season we have barely featured together at all.

"And when one has been back, it hasn't been long before you'd be out again so it's been frustrating for them but, like all the family, they do their best to keep our spirits up and they've been massively supportive."

Fit-again Dave Kearney making his way to the training pitch with Jamison Gibson-Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Fit-again Dave Kearney making his way to the training pitch with Jamison Gibson-Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Only the Glasgow Warriors game in September saw two Kearney names on the Leinster Rugby team sheet and since then it has been one thing after another.

Rob is currently out nursing knee and bicep injuries and, while he has managed nine games for Leinster, Dave on the other hand has only managed six and is still waiting to make his seasonal bow at Champions Cup level.

"It is frustrating in particular those first few days because a lot of the time you have an idea of the road that lies ahead and it is rarely a short road.

"I've had a couple of road bumps along the way in my season too so you go from being ready to go, to back to square one again and that is arguably the toughest element of that cycle that you fall into. It can be very difficult to get out of."

His most recent comeback was going brilliantly. Two tries in a man-of-the-match performance away to Treviso was followed up five days later with another start against Edinburgh.

He didn't appear for the second half though as a toe injury was the latest on his rap sheet. But he is happy that that was then and this is now and feels good as he faces into the most important block of the season with a Leinster side playing good rugby.

Consistency

"Consistency has been a big thing for us this season. We've used 51 players so far in both competitions and you need that strength in depth to allow you to be competitive in every game and in every week which thankfully we have been.

"Look at the Six Nations block. We wanted to be in a good place when the lads came back and we managed that with four bonus-point wins in a row.

"It's been great. We are also playing a brand of rugby that we like to play and that I think the supporters have reacted to and enjoy watching in the RDS and in the Aviva Stadium.

"The result is obviously the most important but if we can do that while also playing a good brand of rugby, everyone benefits.

"The coaches have done a great job in getting us to this point. And then we've put in the hard work and hopefully that will pay off as we face into the last few months."

They may have scored 79 tries in those 15 Guinness PRO12 wins but it won't come easy over the coming weeks.

"We all want eight games in eight weeks and it is as tough a task as you could ask for. Away to Ospreys, to Connacht, to Clermont, to Ulster and of course we have one home game against Glasgow still to come in the middle of all that.

"That is an awful lot of fixtures against teams that are really scrapping for something but I also think that those fixtures will bring the best out of us, starting this weekend in the Liberty Stadium."

What is it about those Swansea men though that make for such a tough assignment? It hasn't been a happy hunting ground and they've been very capable in the RDS as well.

Intimidating

"I don't think it's necessarily anything to do with the Liberty itself. The ground is never full so is not the most intimidating of places to play, it's a superb surface to play on so it's a place that everyone loves to play in.

"But what Ospreys have is real quality from one to 23, real strength in depth and this weekend, having lost last week in the Challenge Cup quarter-final, they will be mad keen to get a result because they know that to not get a result will make it very difficult for them to make that top two.

"Similar to us and the RDS, they also have a very proud record losing only once at home this season in the PRO12.

"So for me, it's about the quality of the team and we have massive respect for them and that has shown in our preparation this week where we have really been sharp and lads are very keen to show what they can do."

It is worth bearing in mind in Kearney's absence that others have stepped up to the plate and the younger Leinster flyers have shown Leo Cullen and Co exactly what they can do.

He's not exactly an elder statesman of the team but at 27 he's no spring chicken either. He has seen plenty in his 109 Leinster appearances and he likes what he sees in the new breed.

"A few weeks ago we had seven of the lads awarded their first senior contracts and then this week we had another 13 players retained for the next season.

"I think 10 of those came through the Academy system so it's a system that is working and the work that is being done at schools and clubs levels is bearing fruit.

"The young lads now are driving the standards and are driving us all to be better because the reality is that when you get a jersey, you have earned it and you have to work very hard to retain it.

"The young lads have done that this season. They have earned it. But hopefully I will get a few opportunities between now and the end of the season to stake my claim and it would be great to start that against the Ospreys."

We saw the emotion on Fergus McFadden's face last weekend when he scored his first try after his injury-enforced absence.

Can we expect something similar from the Louth man should he score tomorrow?

"Watching moments like that with Ferg and the lads and how well they've been going, you just want to be out there and contributing.

"For me, I just want to take my opportunities when they come and start to build a bit of form.

"Like I said, I'd like to think that there is plenty of rugby still to be played this season and I'd love to be in the mix as much as possible."

Irish Independent

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