Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# luckless
'I was in a dark enough place': Kearney looks to put injury-ravaged season behind him
The winger has been sidelined for 23 weeks of the season but is back to full fitness and ready to help Leinster’s push for silverware.

THERE’S BAD LUCK, and then there’s the horrific luck Dave Kearney has endured during this injury-ravaged season. Operations, comebacks, setbacks and just 410 minutes of game time.

“It has been a frustrating season for me,” he admits. “Definitely the worst season.”

Dave Kearney Donall Farmer / INPHO Dave Kearney: back to full fitness and all smiles again. Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

It’s hardly surprising, and it’s clear from the way he speaks about the last seven months that there were tough times. There were days when he questioned things, when he wondered when he would ever get back. The mental strain is so often harder to bear than the physical rehabilitation work.

“Obviously no player likes to be injured but the fact I probably didn’t know how long I was going to be out for,” Kearney continues. “It kind of dragged on a bit and I wasn’t really sure when I was going to be back. That was very frustrating.”

The winger featured in four of Leinster’s first five games of the campaign, but two separate injury layoffs means he has played in just three since, including a 20-minute cameo off the bench against Ospreys last weekend.

It was his first appearance since February after he sustained a toe injury in the win over Edinburgh at the RDS. That game was just his second back after 16 weeks on the sideline with an ankle problem which ultimately required surgery.

“It was devastating to miss more games,” he says of his comeback being cruelly cut short.

“It was really tough. After Edinburgh, those next couple of days I was in a dark enough place but at the same time it could have been worse and it’s just down to bad luck.

“I thought I might have needed surgery on it [toe] but thankfully didn’t so you just have to take the positives. I had to put a date on my return and work really hard on the pitch and in the gym to get there. You can’t waste time dwelling or getting annoyed at yourself, you’ve just got to get yourself back up.”

Dave Kearney scores a try Alfio Guarise / INPHO Kearney marked his return with two tries against Treviso in February but got injured in the next game. Alfio Guarise / INPHO / INPHO

In all, Kearney has missed 23 weeks of the season through injury but has used the time on the sideline to work on his strength and power in the gym.

“I feel really good and during the time I have been injured I had a good window to work on other parts of my game and I’m actually feeling pretty good and sharp,” the winger explains.

Kearney has remained involved in the setup throughout, with early morning sessions with Leinster’s medical staff at their UCD base, as well as keeping his eye on the ball when it comes to team play and calls.

He adds: “You’ve obviously got to get used to training again after coming back.

“It was great to be back at the weekend and I was delighted to get through 20 minutes. Touch wood I’m injury free now for the rest of the season as there’s a lot of rugby to be played.

“You just have to be patient, you’re going to get a chance but it’s just about waiting for it. It might not be the first week you’re back but when you get the chance you just have to make sure you’re ready to take it.”

The 16-times capped Ireland international has been around long enough to know he won’t just walk back into the team, particularly with the level of competition at Leinster and the way Adam Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin have been performing this term. It just doesn’t work like that.

“Every year is really hard to get into the team, if you look at the names since I’ve come in when I was younger, it’s always been a case of big names being ahead of me,” he continues.

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Dave Kearney Morgan Treacy / INPHO The winger is hoping to put his hand up for this week's trip to Galway to face Connacht. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“You work hard to get your spot and game time and it kinds of works in circles and people get injured and you get in and put your hand up. Then you have a setback and someone else comes in and does well and it has been no different this year and the lads coming in have done really well.

“I just want to put my hand up and get some game time between now and the end of the season and if I do get on the pitch put in some good performances.

“I’m only 27, not too old yet, and still have a few years left in me. I look at missed games and lost games as an opportunity to add them to the end of my career. There’s still a lot of games and years left for me and now I just have to get back in the squad, push further and get back in the Ireland setup.”

As he says, the first goal is to break back into Leo Cullen’s plans and that starts this week ahead of Saturday’s trip to Galway. Leinster are battling for silverware on two fronts, and after such a frustrating season Kearney is ready to help the province finish with a flourish.

“We’re getting into the business end of the season and all the work we’ve done so far will mean nothing unless we get some silverware and we have something to back it up.

“We’ve got a really tough run in, some really tough games, and we’re going to need a full squad for that and hopefully I can get back in for this weekend and put in a good performance.”

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