# Dangerous dave
'It's been a tough couple of years, there's no other way to put it'
Dave Kearney is intent on working his way back to peak form after a frustrating run of injuries.

LIKE A BOLT from the very dark blue kit he wore, Dave Kearney blasted his way back into the consciousness of Irish rugby with the most emphatic of bangs last month.

Dave Kearney scores a try despite Romain Ntamack Dan Sheridan / INPHO Kearney stretches to ground his try against Toulouse. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

For the best part of two years, Kearney’s life has been a frustrating cycle of rehab to brief return and then injury. No sooner would he work his way back onto the field, and into Leinster’s seriously competitive back three, before another betrayal would come from his body.

“After the game it was great,” says Kearney as he rightfully looks back with pride at the powerful drive off a clean catch to finish in the corner despite a tackle from Toulouse’s Romain Ntamack.

“It had been a while since I’d been part of a great Leinster day, one of the best teams in Europe coming to the RDS and we put in a great performance, getting a great win.

“It had been a while since I got that feeling of… being happy,” the hesitation is a thoughtful, pregnant pause as the 29-year-old thinks back on the false dawns he has seen come and go.

As a man who was in a first-choice Joe Schmidt XV not long ago, he wears expectation of his own performance like a heavy burden – at least when pondering the time he has spent unable to fulfill those expectations. He notes ‘injuries and other stuff’ as issues which have dogged him, but he laughs as he clarifies that it was injury on top of injuries.

When you have setback after setback it gets tough, mentally, trying to deal with it. You put more pressure on your performances because the chances aren’t coming that often. So when they come you have to take them.”

This feels like a grand time to re-watch his 26th try for his province. A venomous way to snap up a slim chance.

It wasn’t simply his own fitness that took Kearney onto the field that day. James Lowe’s suspension and a mini back-line injury crisis fast-tracked his case for selection. He is acutely aware he has work ahead of him to again be first-choice after a period where his list of appearances sputtered and stuttered with consecutive matches notable by their absence.

He has made 27 appearances since the 2016 Pro12 final loss to Connacht. But the problem predates Murrayfield for Kearney. Since a shoulder injury in a thumping 2016 Test defeat against France, he has endured ankle, toe, groin and more soft tissue complaints besides.

Backing up the try against Toulouse with a starting role in the win over Wasps has whetted his appetite to compete for a quarter-final spot on 29 March.

Noel Reid and Dave Kearney after the game Oisin Keniry / INPHO Kearney celebrates with Noel Reid in January. Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

“After getting those two games under my belt, at Europe level, it definitely gave me a lot of confidence,” said Kearney.

“Just to show the coaches that I feel I’m obviously good enough to play at that level, I’ve done it before, and just to remind them that I can do it. It was a good opportunity to do that.”

He adds: “I was probably putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform well, because I knew how important it would be in getting selected the next week. You put pressure on yourself every week but you are forcing and overthinking things.”

This weekend’s Pro14 trip to Zebre marks the first of three vital game for any Leinster player eager to move up into front-line contention. If he can impress in this block, then it will be a large step back towards where he wants to be. No matter the strength of Ireland’s depth chart, it only takes a few injuries to completely change the picture.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in here,” he says as he sits to chat with assembled media, “it’s been a tough couple of years, there’s no other way to put it. It has been frustrating for a number of reasons, obviously injury and then having to deal with other stuff on top of that too.

Dave Kearney celebrates his try with Rory O'Loughlin and Garry Ringrose

“The toughest part for me the last few years has just been getting consistent game-time really. I’d get back fit, have a couple of games and pick up another knock and be out for another few weeks. Stuff like that just kept adding up.

“Once you get into the team you need to be playing well consistently, back up performances, which I was finding difficult to do, but this season has been good for me so far. I’ve enjoyed it.”

Though never more so than that feat of athleticism to ensure the champions powered on past Toulouse.

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