LEINSTER FULL-BACK ROB KEARNEY says it is a ‘dream come true’ to have his performances recognised in a European Cup-winning season.
Kearney clinched the European Rugby Council Player of the Year award on Monday afternoon, two days after his side won the Heineken Cup by defeating Ulster 42-14.
“This is a massively proud moment for me,” he commented.
The 26-year-old pointed out that an individual player ‘is powerless without the support of his teammates’ and added that he owed the award to the Leinster squad and all the club’s staff. Kearney added:
It’s been a huge season for me especially given that I missed out on last year’s Heineken Cup final because of injury and had to watch from the sideline. So this time, I desperately wanted to be a part of it.
“To follow in the footsteps of Sean O’Brien as ERC European Player of the Year is really satisfying,” he declared. “Sean was phenomenal last season, and he was one of the main reasons why we won the tournament.”
Kearney is aware of how ‘special’ it is to have won the Heineken Cup two years in a row but was keen to emphasise that all involved at the squad are hungry for success and eager to retain their crown next season.
“Next Sunday,” he said, “we’ve got the RaboDirect PRO12 final against the Ospreys and that’s going to be huge for us as players as well.” Kearney added:
Anyone who manages to put 40 points on Munster has to be a really good team, and even if Munster will feel that they didn’t play that well in the semi-final, the Ospreys were impressive.
“They will have had two weeks to prepare for Sunday’s final, they will have scouted us pretty well, so we’re expecting a big game from them and we know they’ll be hugely up for winning a trophy.”
Dublin’s Bernard Brogan is glad Kearney is not a Louth GAA star.
Kearney feels that, despite the province’s success of the last four years, it is important that no-one at Leinster loses the run of themselves.
He added, “We’re constantly striving to improve, and as long as we stay in this place where the desire is there to keep on winning, then thenthenLeinster Rugby will be very strong for the coming years.”
A double for the supporters
The full-back’s sentiments were echoed by Joe Schmidt when the Leinster coach spoke to RTÉ’s Sport at Seven on Monday evening.
Schmidt said, “The players will refocus themselves. I know a couple of the players spoke to me (after the Heineken Cup win) about getting everyone back in together for the double and giving it a good attempt”
“This time we are (in the final) at home, in front of our home supporters, who crossed over to London and supported us in droves,” he added. “We’d like to give them something more to cheer.”