Keenan, Larmour and Kearney look sharp in Leinster's back three

Meanwhile, 20-year-old Ethan McIlroy continues to show his promise for Ulster.

Dave Kearney scored an excellent first-half try for Leinster last night.
Dave Kearney scored an excellent first-half try for Leinster last night.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

NO ONE IN the Leinster squad has played as much as Dave Kearney has so far this season, with the Louth man racking up 719 minutes of action across nine starts in all competitions.

The 31-year-old doesn’t tend to grab the headlines but he has been prolific once again in this campaign, with his superb finish against Ulster last night bringing his try count to seven for 2020/21.

Kearney’s first-half try at the RDS in Leinster’s 24-12 win was an excellent one as the left wing received a clever pass from scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and showed power, balance, and awareness to burst past Matt Faddes and Billy Burns, diving to dot down just before his left foot went into touch.

It was the latest highlight in what is proving to be a strong season for Kearney, who was also impressive in the 2019/20 campaign as he scored 12 tries in 12 starts for the province.

Having last been capped by Ireland in 2019 in a World Cup warm-up friendly, Kearney still has international ambitions and will hope to continue his good form in the Champions Cup over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Ireland boss Andy Farrell will have been pleased to see Jordan Larmour make a sharp return from a shoulder injury against Ulster.

The 23-year-old hadn’t played since October and understandably looked hungry whenever he got possession, while his defensive and aerial work was solid. Again, the European games will be important for him.

But most impressive of all in the Leinster back three last night was fullback Hugo Keenan, who continues to get better.

The 24-year-old sat out last weekend’s home defeat to Connacht but was excellent on his return to action, delivering his typical work-rate in providing thorough backfield coverage throughout the game.

hugo-keenan-with-matt-faddes Keenan was in good form again last night. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Keenan is a strong communicator and without fans in stadiums, we have been able to appreciate the concise, consistent nature of his chat with team-mates even as play unfolds on the pitch. 

Furthermore, the Dublin man is getting increasingly comfortable with organising Leinster in attack if and when he is required to act as a first receiver or set up behind pods of forwards. Having enjoyed an impressive first campaign with Ireland in the autumn, Keenan will be keen to add more caps this spring.

Overall, it was a good night for the Leinster back three and head coach Leo Cullen was pleased with their efforts.

“Hugo has had the last couple of weeks off and Jordan hasn’t played in three or four months,” said Cullen post-match. “It’s great for Jordan to get through 80 minutes, that’s a big plus.

“Hugo has been excellent for us all season and he’s gone away and got capped for Ireland as well, so another positive performance from him.

“Dave has been not far off ever-present over the last few months, so good for him again.

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“We’re certainly creating plenty and it’s good for those guys just hopefully to get better off the back of playing together. That’s important.”

ethan-mcilroy-is-tackled-by-jordan-larmour Ethan McIlroy has shown his great promise. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Ulster’s 20-year-old Ethan McIlroy delivered another good performance on the wing for the visitors, meanwhile, underlining that the northern province have their own back three talent.

The academy man has a calmness that defies his age and is always a threat when in possession. He has surely caught Ireland boss Farrell’s eye in recent times.

22-year-old fullback Michael Lowry had some nice involvements again for Ulster and looks like being a key playmaker for them in the long-term.

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland also used last night to give 19-year-old Ben Moxham further exposure off the bench and it’s very clear that there is a talented crop of backs emerging in his squad.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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