Saturday 19 January 2019

David has game plan

Youngest of Kearney clan finds flexibility's key to cement place

There's the education you reap in the classroom and the one you hone on the playing fields. But you don't need to go too far past the family home to see the foundation blocks on which the individual's character is cultivated.

Cue David Kearney. The career graph has risen steadily over the past three months during a time in which he was selected as an unused replacement in the 'Fever In The Aviva' victory over ASM Clermont Auvergne, he featured in back-to-back interprovincial victories over Ulster and Connacht before earning his first Ireland 'A' (Wolfhounds) cap in the 20-11 victory over England earlier this month.

An impressive tally of three tries in his last two Magners League outings, including one last Thursday week at home to Aironi for large parts at outside centre, confirmed not only his eye for the try-line, but also his flexibility.

For in a highly competitive environment, remember, it is always better to continue to add strings to your bow.

Kearney need only look to his fellow Clongowes team-mate Fergus McFadden whose consistency and versatility has ensured his place in the rather unfamiliar right wing role for Ireland over the past two weekends.

As is so often the way, you can safely assume that competition levels amongst the Kearney brothers growing up might have been quite spicy at times.


"You could say that alright!" he grinned, reflecting on the meandering career path which has taken him to within the upper echelons of the pro game.

"I started off playing Gaelic right the way through my teens and would have played a good bit of underage rugby with Dundalk RFC up to Under-12s as well.

"But (Gaelic) football was my big passion and it was only really when I had to make a decision around the time I was leaving school and I started getting selected for Leinster Under-18s that I decided to go full tilt at rugby."

Leinster and Ireland devotees will know about the middle brother Rob's exploits at national and international levels, but it was the eldest boy Richard who undoubtedly sowed the seed of interest in rugby.

"Absolutely," he agrees. "The buzz around those big cup games in Donnybrook really gave me a taste of what it was like. First with Richard and then later on with Rob, it was really exciting travelling up to support them at schools level.

"You know how it is when you're younger; you always want to copy your older brothers!"

Since then he hasn't looked back. A standout schoolboy, he was invited to join the Leinster Academy and had to patiently bide his time as his burgeoning talent earned him subsequent Development and, last summer, his first professional contract.

Asked to put himself in with a shout for the first team panel by showing promise and substance for the British & Irish Cup/'A' sides, Kearney was determined to answer the call.

"We have all been told by Joe (Schmidt) to go out, express ourselves and just have a go. And the results over the last few weeks have given us confidence. From a personal perspective it has been nice to play fairly regularly this season and I've enjoyed the experience.

"You obviously learn a lot from playing, but even being involved in the Heineken Cup game in the Aviva Stadium back in December was a real thrill because it was another step up physically and mentally. You can see the quality of the opposition on display and all you can do is observe and look to take your chance.

"As a winger one part of your game is finishing off moves and it's nice for your confidence to manage that. But there's a lot more to your game in the back three than scoring tries so I know I've got to keep working hard to try and stay in the team."

Kearney credits the Academy for providing him with the preparatory tools to make the progression up into the senior set-up that bit easier but, week on week, the 21-year-old admits the bar rises a fraction.

It will be the same again in Cardiff on Saturday night when second plays third in the league table.

"There have been a lot of difficult games recently, and it's obviously more difficult when you're without virtually a full team through international commitments and injury, but the lads have shown a bit of steel and resolve to keep on pushing up the league table and we have to keep that going this weekend.

"Cardiff are a tough, physical team who will look to attack you, especially at home. So we will need to be strong defensively and ready to take our chances."

The Louth man's versatility in moving inside one position to outside centre from his accustomed left wing slot took a little bit of adaptation, he readily confesses, but he bears the weight of flexibility well citing his desire to pull on a jersey -- and any jersey at that.

"I would say that playing Gaelic definitely improves your hand/eye coordination as well as your physicality. By the time I started off in Dundalk I was an out-half.

"Then in school I played mainly full-back and since then it has mainly been the wing.

"That's why it was nice to play full-back for the Wolfhounds because I hadn't played there in a while. You have to keep challenging yourself and we're all learning so you have to be ready to step into the breach when you're asked. Which jersey would I prefer? That's easy. Any one with a number on its back is fine with me!"

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