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'There’s a huge F You attitude': Leinster lock braced for 'vicious' encounter with former club Connacht

After four years west of the Shannon, Mick Kearney knows what Leinster can expect at the Sportsground.

LEINSTER LOCK MICK Kearney knows only too well what to expect when his native province run out at the Sportsground tomorrow (KO 17.15). He’s been on both sides of the fence.

The 24-year-old Clontarf man was a Connacht player for four seasons before returning home last summer. He’s endured mostly frustration since then, a persistent toe injury keeping him sidelined until January. But with four games under his belt, he’s up to speed just in time for a top-of-the-table clash in a rivalry that never needed much stoking when staged in Galway.

Mick Kearney Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“From my experience,” Kearney says in an away RDS dressing room he last frequented in Connacht colours, “any inter-pro when you’re in Connacht, it’s a fairly violent week (in training) to be honest.

“You want to starting, you want to get your place and you want to get as many of those physical moments in during the week. You want to be ready, you want to know what’s coming.

“I’ll tell you now, when I was at Connacht the training we did in the week of an inter-pro was far harder than any inter-pro that we played in. It was fairly vicious stuff and it gets you ready for the game.”

And Kearney feels the attitude of the hosts is only ever intensified as opposed to diluted by having players, like himself, who originate from east of the Shannon but head to Connacht for a chance to play top class rugby.

‘Bigger picture’

“There’s a massive chip on the shoulder, there’s a huge ‘F you’ attitude when they do come up the road. You say: ‘well, you didn’t pick me initially, who are you to say that I’m not good enough to play for my home province?’

In Kearney’s case, the opportunity to bite the hand that stopped feeding him came very early on. And the man who suffered his annoyance was Leo Cullen, who brought him back to the RDS last year.

“My first start for Connacht was against Leinster, (Cullen) was playing, I think there was a few cheap shots flying around that day from both of us. It’s interesting to look back at that.”

Kearney credits Cullen with more than just some dark second row arts. The year-one head coach has helped him cope through the frustration of the toe injury to now; where after a bit of an enforced wait, he feels like a fully fledged Leinster man again.

“He’s helped me throughout,” Kearney says of Cullen, “the fact that he was a second row as well, played in the league for 10, 15 years, was massive for me.

Mick Kearney Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“He has an open door policy, you can always pop in and have a chat with him and say: ‘I’m feeling this,’ or, ‘is there anything I can add?’ Or, ‘what can I do here?’

“He’ll either say: ‘you’re doing grand’, ‘you’re doing nothing wrong’ or ‘go off and work on this.’ So he’s great for feedback and he motivates players to want to work hard.

“Definitely the lungs are starting to feel better, I’m starting to move more freely and I wouldn’t say the nerves are as bad as they were last week.

“It’s great to be involved, there’s only so much time you can spend spotting lads in the gym and on the exercise bike. It’s great to be out training, putting your shoulder to the wheel and being around the lads, just enjoying it, being outside, it’s fantastic.”

1129379_rdax_637x480_80 To win a new SAMSUNG S7 and a place at the mobile photography masterclass fans are asked to share their favorite Leinster-themed photographs on social media using #S7BeyondTheGame.

Samsung, official technology partner to Leinster Rugby, is giving fans a chance to shoot behind the scenes at the RDS using the new Galaxy S7. Winners will also learn from a photography masterclass before snapping pitch-side when Leinster take on Edinburgh. Go to Samsung’s Facebook page or here for more information on how to win.

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Sean Farrell

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