ROB KEARNEY HAS been awarded the ERC Player of the Year after holding off stiff competition from the likes of Stephen Ferris and Jonny Sexton.
The Leinster full-back, who collected his third Heineken Cup winners’ medal on Saturday, was selected as the finest player to play in Europe’s elite rugby competition this season.
Kearney was back to his best in a season that started off with a journey to the quarter finals of the World Cup with Ireland.
He returned for duty with Leinster in November and delivered a number of stunning performances in which he dominated under the high ball and linked up excellently in attack with Sexton and Isa Nacewa.
The man from the Cooley peninsula, County Louth, played 15 times for Leinster this season and scored seven tries.
He was immense in Heineken Cup wins over Bath and Cardiff at the Aviva Stadium.
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The number 15′s finest performance of the season came in the 19-15 win over Clermont in Bordeaux when he set Cian Healy up for a second-half try and followed it up with a snap drop-goal from 35 metres out.
Kearney also set the tone for a fine Leinster victory over Ulster on Saturday when he claimed a towering up-and-under in the opening minute to set up an attacking drive for his team. He said:
It really is an honour to have won this award. While I am delighted with the recognition, an individual player is powerless without the support of his teammates. So I owe this to the Leinster squad, to the management and to all the backroom staff at the club.
Kearney played all five games of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign in February and March.
The two other nominees were Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar and Jonny Wilkinson of Toulon.
The ERC Judging Panel, which drew up the shortlist, comprises Stuart Barnes, Raphael Ibanez, Stephen Jones, Emmanuel Massicard and Gerry Thornley.
In April, Kearney was named the Leinster Player of the Year by his peers.