Pe op le
7677 IRISH TATLER MAN
PeAKPortrait photography: Hazel Coonagh
Having returned from Ireland’s disappointing Rugby World Cup to
a club season in which Leinster have failed to set the world alight,
Dave Kearney is looking forward, not back, writes Aaron Rogan
“I started off professionally when I was 19, I signed my first
contract then, so I’ve been at Leinster for five years,” says Kearney.
ife in the “Things don’t happen straight away and, especially with the quality
of players that were already here, it takes a while to familiarise
shadow of his yourself with everything and then work your way up.
big brother has “Think about the Leinster teams of 2010, 2011 and 2012. Just
getting a spot and turning into a regular player was a mountain to
been pretty climb.
“The timing of my professional career competition-wise,
bright for especially in the back three at club and country, has been hectic.
LDave Kearney. Since I became a professional, there have been the best of the best
in my way. That’s not a complaint in anyway – that’s the way rugby
is going in Ireland and it is only getting more and more competitive.
“Players are starting younger and the structures are so solid that
The Leinster and Ireland wing and fullback has often been best some guys are nearly fully formed for the first team by the time
known as the younger sibling of 29-year-old Rob, but that’s not they’re 20 or 21 – they just need the experience.”
something he would change, even if he could contemplate how. Two years ago, Kearney was in the midst of a media storm when,
“We’ve lived together since I left school, we still do. We live while lying injured on the ground of Thomond Park during a
together, work together, have a business together, so we see quite a Leinster match against Munster, he was kicked in the head by Paul
bit of each other, it is fair to say,” the younger Kearney reveals. O’Connell. Although it was ruled to be accidental, the Munster lock
Despite Dave following in the footsteps of the three-years-older and captain kicked at the ball with little regard for Kearney, who had
Rob since the age of 11, when he joined him in boarding school at his head between it and POC’s sizable boot.
the prestigious Clongowes Wood College in Naas, Co Kildare, there Kearney left the field unconscious from the blow, and did not
has never been much of a sibling rivalry. return for months. But the most
“It has always been the opposite,” he affirms. “Before I went to telling part of his maturity was
Clongowes, I would have been much closer to our sister [Sarah], [Ireland manager] Joe Schmidt
who is closer to my age. The three-and-a-half years between Rob revealing his reaction: “He was
and me when I was eight may as well have been a hundred years! unconscious for a period of
“He was leaving home and going to Clongowes, which was not IT WAS time. He’s come back around
something I could have appreciated at all at that age. Then when I DIFFERENT and has probably asked the
got there and was homesick, we became very close. He made it a THIS YEAR, question ten times, ‘Did I catch
lot easier for me there.” IT WAS A it?’” He did and since he
STRUGGLE TO returned he has become an
He hasn’t always made it easier at Leinster and Ireland, though GET GOING establishment player for club
– Rob is one of a number of players who stood in the way of Dave AFTER THE and country.
breaking into the teams as a regular. WORLD CUP
BEEN THE BEST
OF THE BEST
IN MY WAY
7879 IRISH TATLER MAN
Kearney is tackled by Maxime Medard
during the Six Nations match between
France and Ireland at the Stade de France
Stadium on February 13, 2016 in Paris
Now 26, Kearney was one of only three players, along with his brother Munster as well. But then again, that says a lot about the expectations
Rob and No8 Jamie Heaslip, to play the entirety of the title-winning 2014 that people have for our clubs.
Six Nations. Needless to say, he is looking forward, not back.
“The history over the last five or ten years is almost pure success.
“The next few years should be the highlights of my career personally. When you’re winning trophies every year, that’s what is expected of you.
It’s hard to know what years will be my peak years or when I will perform That’s what everyone wants to see but it does take time to get to that
at my best,” the Louthman says. level when there are changes.
That starts with putting a disappointing World Cup and even more “We will get there soon enough; it’s already starting to show. Europe
disappointing start to the year with Leinster behind him. Kearney played came too soon for it but I think we’re definitely on an upward curve.
an integral part in the summer tournament; and like many of his fellow Look at the game against Toulon [Leinster had the best of the first half
Leinster internationals, he struggled when he got back in the province’s against the hat-rick European champions
blue. before losing 20-16] – we were really close to
clicking, we’re not far away.”
His return to the Green was short lived and will have to wait longer to
shake off that disappointment after a severe shoulder injury picked up in Conscious that a rugby career is short,
a massive hit during the 10-9 defeat to France has ruled him out for a Kearney is finishing his third-level education
spell. Indeed, for the first time in Kearney’s career, there seemed to be a alongside Leinster teammate Jordi Murphy,
sense that rugby was a burden. studying business studies in the Dublin
Institute of Technology. He also invested in
“It was different this year, it was a struggle to get going after the The Bridge 1859, the popular Dublin 4 bar,
World Cup,” he admits. “We had a new coach [former Leinster and alongside fellow Leinster and Ireland
Ireland captain Leo Cullen] and new set-up in Leinster this year, we teammates Rob, Heaslip and Sean O’Brien.
weren’t performing in the Pro 12 and European competition.
With the best of his career ahead of him, it
“There were a lot of guys coming back from World Cup duty may have seem slightly retirement-focused for
disappointed and having to feel their way into a new set up: new calls, the then 24-year-old to be buying into a pub,
new moves, a new way of playing rugby. There was a lot of stuff that but, once again, it transpires that his big
people didn’t see that was in our way to stop us clicking straight away. brother had a hand in the decision.
All that stuff takes time and we didn’t have time,” he says.
“I’m a bit younger, so I had to see it from a different perspective,”
But Kearney insists that’s life at Leinster – only the best is good Kearney admits. “I do have an interest and when the offer came I was
enough and he knows that as much as anyone. He was initially kept out excited by the location and turning it into a great spot for rugby in the
of the first XV by exceptional players and had to claw his way from his RDS and the Aviva.
status as Rob’s younger brother to become a regular starter; and now
that he’s there, he relishes the high expectations at the club, for the “It’s definitely something I enjoy doing and the more I learn, the more
most part. I love it – but I’m still in the midst of the career. I feel like I’m starting to
peak now in terms of rugby, so it’s nothing to do with looking for a way
“There was an element of people being too happy to get the out. All going well I have another six or more years left in me.” ITM
complaints in and not appreciate the level of changes at Leinster, and