Friday 17 November 2017

Kearney faces up to first war in Europe

Wing insists he'll be ready for his Heineken debut against Warriors

Firhill is not a million miles away from Rodney Parade in terms of the cramped environment and the intensity generated by the players that represent the tribal clubs of Glasgow Warriors and the Newport-Gwent Dragons.

These are the Scottish and Welsh equivalents of Connacht, constantly under siege for the transfer of their better players to foreign lands.

Lock Richie Gray is off to Sale Sharks at the end of this season.

It was at Rodney Parade that Dave Kearney, now 22, made his Leinster debut as one of the 'lambs to a slaughter' at the tail end of the 2008/2009 season, just before older brother Rob bounded out to South Africa with the British & Irish Lions.


He wasn't alone. Fly-halves Ian Madigan and Ian McKinley, tighthead Jamie Hagan and centre Kyle Tonetti also took their first tentative, professional steps in Wales that May day.

"I was 19 at the time when I made my first appearance," said Dave Kearney. "There were four or five of us making our debuts that day.

"The coaches say that 'if you're good enough, it doesn't really matter what age you are'.

"I thought I was ready for it."

Since then, Hagan has been to Connacht and back, Tonetti is there right now and McKinley has been forced into retirement.

Things change very quickly in this merciless sport.


Wing Kearney has shown Michael Cheika and Joe Schmidt that he has something worth persevering with.

There has been a distinct improvement in his physical make-up, an impressive fend and the facility for coming late, straight and hard onto the ball.

He has started 21 times for Leinster, never in the Heineken Cup; came off the bench seven times, never in the Heineken Cup. That all changes tomorrow when he will line out on the right wing.

This is a new ball game, however: "It is another step to take. Having a chance to play in the Heineken Cup is pretty massive for me. I am really looking forward to it," he said.

Of course, the baptism could be more exotic.

It could have been Montpellier in the south of France or Bath in the west of England. Instead, it is plain old, ordinary Glasgow.

"Yeah, I suppose, I've played against them a couple of times which makes it a bit more comfortable," he said. "Then again, it is (the) Heineken Cup and it doesn't matter what kind of team you're playing, familiar or unfamiliar.

"They are going to play their best rugby and give it their all."

Kearney echoed the opinion of the IRFU when admitting that it is purely the minutes of a match that bring about progress and development, especially with Luke Fitzgerald sidelined by a neck injury.

"The key thing is getting game time. While the Irish internationals are away at the World Cup and November series, it is a really important time for guys like me to develop.

"Anytime you get an opportunity to play, it is where you develop most. Development is going to come. It is not something you force."

The Kearney brothers will work in tandem with Isa Nacewa as the Leinster back-three tomorrow.

Dave prefers to see Rob as a motivating factor rather than a burden to be compared to. "It has been a bit of an inspiration," he said. "His experience really helps me. He goes through my games and lets me know what things he thinks I should work on and what things I am doing well. It is great having him there."

Glasgow: R Lamont; T Seymour, S Hogg, G Morrison, C Shaw; D Weir, C Cusiter; J Welsh, P McArthur, E Kalman, R Gray, A Kellock (capt), R Harley, C Fusaro, J Barclay.

Leinster: R Kearney; D Kearney, F McFadden, G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, S Cronin, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), D Toner, S O'Brien, S Jennings, J Heaslip.

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