As Ireland’s odyssey in the Rugby World Cup continues and the team attempts to go where no other Ireland team has done, both Rob Kearney (OC’04) and his brother and Dave (OC’07) continue to be fixtures in the starting XV. Tomorrow (Sunday 16th, 13.00) they will turn out as the team faces their sometime bogey team, Argentina, in the quarter finals (Rob at full back and Dave on the wing). Argentina have been playing some sparkling rugby this time (the brand that France used to supply) and might well have done better against New Zealand last month in their group game. Nonetheless there is something special about the latest Irish set up which makes us dare to hope that the Kearneys’ World Cup adventure will continue for a few more weeks.
A veteran of several schools’ cup squads, Rob is now one of the senior members on the Ireland team with 63 caps and 52 points to his credit. While his Clongowes side (in which he was ably assisted by fellow international Fergus McFadden OC’05) ultimately fell at the last hurdle in the 2004 SCT campaign, Rob was the undisputed star of the show and was quickly snapped up by Leinster. A year after leaving school he made his first competitive appearance for the province and two years later was a fully-fledged member of an Irish squad that would deliver a Grand Slam in 2009.
Selection for the Lions came at the callow age of 23 in South Africa and was repeated four years later, when he was part of the victorious touring party in Australia. Since then he overcame serious injury and several challenges to his berth to inspire Leinster to a third Heineken Cup in 2012 (a season that saw him named ERC Player of the Year) and emerge as one of Ireland’s leading lights in the post-Brian O’Driscoll era.
For Clongowes, for Leinster, for Ireland
When Dave Kearney entered the fray in the 55th minute to make his international bow against Samoa in November 2013, he joined his brother Rob, Fergus McFadden (OC’05) and the evergreen Gordon D’Arcy (OC’98) in a backline that honed its talent in the famed purple and white. Following several seasons of close calls, Dave was finally reaping the rewards of a prolific career in the blue of Leinster. He plundered two tries that afternoon, expertly dotting down in the right hand corner despite the attentions of Samoa’s Autagavaia for his first (“a try that was made in Clane”; Tony Ward) and also finishing off a sweeping team move in the closing stages.
Despite being on the fringe of the 2012 Six Nations squad (he was on the bench for the Welsh visit), Dave had to wait patiently while others were thrust into action. Since that Samoa match he has been capped a total of ten times for his country and, at just 26 years of age there are many more caps that await the younger Kearney, who has replaced the esteemed Tommy Bowe on the right wing.
While we wish Rob and Dave every success in the weeks ahead we may also spare a thought for Gordon D’Arcy and Fergus McFadden, both of whom were unlucky to lose out in the final squad selection. Gordon was the trail blazer and has played 82 times for Ireland, 257 times for Leinster and was also on the Lions’ tours in 2005 and 2009. Fergus is a Leinster stalwart with 125 provincial caps and two Heineken Cup medals who has represented his country 29 times at various levels and who hopefully will do so again.
Rumour has it that the Womba is to be be introduced at the Millennium Stadium…