Geraldine Kieran reports from a special questions and answers event hosted by Brent Pope in Dundalk RFC where the RTE rugby pundit spoke to Leinster and Ireland rugby internationals and brothers, Rob and Dave Kearney.
‘Keeping Up With The Kearneys!’
It may be a very tongue and cheek title but keeping up with the Kearneys is most certainly a big challenge. Over the past eight years Rob Kearney has had a career many of his peers would only dream of; and younger brother Dave has clearly stepped out of his big brother’s shadow over the past season. Although hit with yet another season ending injury, Dave is fast on Rob’s heels.
While at matches in Dublin, it is funny to hear people scoff at the association of Dundalk RFC with the Kearney clan. Yes they attended Clongowes Wood college which clearly attributed to enhancing their talents but as Rob has stated on more than one occasion he was born into rugby, just like many other Dundalk club members. The Kearneys come from a long line of Dundalk rugby players.
Yes, they only played at a junior under age level and back then it was most certainly ‘organised chaos’ but we all know that it is within these informative years that one’s passion and love for a childhood hobby is either developed or smashed to pieces. Much of this passion and rugby culture stemmed from family time at the club on the hill.
Luckily, the Kearney’s briefly spoke with us before the event. On one of the warmest days of the year the Kearneys chilled in the members’ back bar along with their father, Brent Pope, and Dermot Lavery (former club president).
The lads had been served up the club’s finest meal andn introduced to latest club talent, under-18s Irish clubs player Tadgh Mc Elroy. Looking fresh, tanned and very content it was clear they are working hard in pre-season training ahead of the new season.
The interview was kept brief as it was clear that we would learn significantly more during the event, as always the lads were in good spirits.
The event itself was filled with wonderful moments, giving previous club players and members a chance to show appreciation for the Kearneys’ talents and achievements. One special moment was the presentation of two jerseys with their respective numbers on the back and they were also accepted as honorary life members of the club.
The Q&A was extremely informative with Brent Pope not being afraid to hold back on the more pressing topics and questions.
Throughout the Q&A the personality types of Robert and Dave were reaffirmed. Dave is chilled, he takes things as they come while Rob is fairly particular and likes things in order. We learned that their early rugby school days were not full of gleaming success. All three Kearney brothers Rob, Dave and elder brother Richard failed to win the then coveted Schools Cup despite all featuring in finals.
Rob’s early Leinster days were discussed at length highlighting Rob’s widely discussed indifference with Michael Cheika. Although, a great Leinster coach he did not necessarily develop Rob as a player. Unlike many of his peers who entertain these reflective interviews, Rob is fairly critical of how he may have come across as a young, hot shot in his early blue days; a view that was extremely refreshing. Humility is a rare trait in the modern day sportsman.
All topics were addressed from the increase in impact, speed and tactics of the game. Both Rob and Dave conceded the fact that the game is getting faster and tougher all the time. Clearly, since Rob entered the professional realm it has greatly changed and in many ways is a totally different game to the one played by the elder club members in Dundalk.
When asked if they ever worried about the long term effects of this collision sport on their health post rugby, the answer spoke for itself.
“ Our mam is sitting in the front row.”
joked Rob and Dave who clearly showed no current concern.
“It’s part of the job, I am not thinking about it right now.”
Competition for places was received with humour. As Brent Pope stated,
“You never want to see an overly happy bench.”
Pop was emphasising the fact that the hunger to play should override celebrating your competitor’s success.
An audience member then asked who has been their most challenging opponent. To our surprise Rob stated that the player was All Blacks fly-half, Dan Carter;
“His talent is immense with a superb ability to read the back three and spot gaps and weaknesses. “
For rugby buffs the evening proved very interesting with the overall certainty that these two young men are hard working, dedicated professionals. The patience shown posing for photographs with adoring fans afterwards further exhibited their gentlemanly nature.
It is not the first time the opportunity to interview the Kearney brothers has arose, they are consistently the same. This was the most polished version of themselves to date, yet the lads do not just give you the usual generic rugby answers. There is a layer to team Kearney that most certainly is not boring.
Geraldine Kieran, Pundit Arena.