Rob and Dave Kearney give rare joint interview: 'I felt a responsibility to mentor him and act like a proper older brother'
In a rare personal interview, Leinster and Ireland rugby stars Rob and Dave Kearney discuss their relationship
Rob Kearney doesn't recall a huge amount about his brother Dave when they were very small, whereas Dave, younger by three years, has a very clear first memory of his older sibling.
"Rob turned me upside down, put my head down the toilet and flushed it," he laughs. "We had many potato fights in the shed when we were growing up, which led to a lot of black eyes. I would have been nearer in age to our younger sister Sarah so we were very close, and it wasn't really until I went to Clongowes that the dynamic between myself and Rob changed."
The sons of David and Siobhan Kearney, the Irish international and Leinster rugby players grew up on a fourth-generation dairy and potato farm in the Cooley peninsula in Louth. They also have an older brother Richard, and all did a lot of potato picking and got involved in the harvest in their youth.
Rob (29) was born in 1986 and Dave (26) in 1989. "I remember going to visit Dave in hospital the day he was born," Rob muses, "but he was probably a figure that didn't really exist for me until I was five or six. There were a lot of scraps, as Dave had a serious temper on him growing up. I was slagging him off for being a bit of a girl when he was about nine, and he said he'd hit me if I didn't shut up. I told him to get lost, and he turned around and slapped me. It was the first time he had done it, but it was quite good because it was suddenly like I had a baby brother rather than a sister."
"I really enjoyed hitting him," Dave chimes in. "I took a lot of pleasure from it. He hit the ground pretty hard, and I was delighted."
It's no surprise that Rob and Dave were involved in sport from an early age, as they come from an active family. Their dad was big into rugby, while their mum did horse riding and still enjoys hill-walking around Carlingford. GAA football was the dominant sport around their area, and they were both stars of the Cooley Kickhams. They got involved in rugby in earnest at boarding school at Clongowes Wood College in Kildare. Rob went there three years ahead of his brother, who was delighted to get him out of the house.
"I took his room, his wardrobe and his clothes," says Dave, gleefully. "I went to Clongowes when he was in fourth year, and I needed him to be my friend again. It's tough going to boarding school at a young age as you get homesick and miss your family, but it was great for me to have a family member there. I definitely looked up to him, as you always want to be like your older brothers. I looked up massively to our older brother Richard too, but we were never at school together."
Rob feels that the dynamic probably changed between them at Clongowes, as he liked having a brother there too and was glad to show him the ropes. "I felt a little more responsibility to mentor him and act like a proper older brother rather than bashing him," he says.
Rob went to UCD, where he graduated with an economics degree in 2010. Dave holds a diploma in business management from DIT, which he hopes to progress to a degree. He currently plays wing and fullback for Leinster and Ireland, while Rob is a fullback.
"The proudest moments in my career have been when the two of us are standing arm-in-arm belting out Amhran na bhFiann, and we look up to the stands and see Mum, Dad, Richard and Sarah," says Rob.
"That's as good as it gets for me. The best thing we have going for us is how tight-knit we are as a family, as we all hang out a huge amount. Mum and Dad come up and stay with us on the nights of games and they're incredible people."
Rob and Dave have lived together in Dublin for four years, and while Dave is single, Rob is in a relationship with Jessica Redden. The brothers own Ballsbridge pub The Bridge 1859 with fellow players Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien. They feel that as they won't be rugby players for the rest of their lives, they need to have different interests and business opportunities, and Dave, in particular, enjoys pulling pints of Guinness behind their bar.
They also play a lot of golf, particularly during the summer, on the fabulous courses at the Druid's Glen Golf Resort in Wicklow. They love it there because it helps them to switch off from rugby, and the resort has two championship golf courses, Druids Glen and Druids Heath, which are among the finest, most challenging and enjoyable in Europe. "I'm officially the better handicap, but Dave is on a hot streak at the moment," says Rob.
Although they live and work together and hang out with each other, the guys rarely argue. Rob says that Dave is probably a bit handier with cooking, and confesses that he's very tidy and has "a touch of OCD, which Dave doesn't really respect." "Rob loses the head if I don't close the door behind me," Dave teases. "He's a very confident person, which I admire, and he also has a big leadership role within the squads we play for. He's outspoken and I'm a bit quieter, and he's good-looking as well."
They're both handsome obviously, and while Dave claims Rob is more popular with female fans, his older brother insists they get the same attention as public figures in sports. "It comes with the territory," he says, "and if we didn't do what we do, people probably wouldn't look at us sideways. Dave is very laid-back and popular in the team environment, and he doesn't get fazed by very much. It's a big positive that we lead the same kind of life, because if something annoys me, it will generally annoy Dave too, and vice versa. I know if I feel strongly about something, he's a good sounding board, as he'll tell me if I'm off the wall or if I have a point."
Rob and Dave Kearney are official ambassadors for Druids Glen Golf Resort in Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow. Both of its championship courses are open for membership as well as golf society bookings. www.druidsglenresort.com/golf
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