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'Leinster players won't use Paul O'Connell head kick as motivation'

Dave Kearney was knocked unconscious after he was on the receiving end of a reckless kick.

A video still captures the moment when Paul O'Connell's foot connects with Dave Kearney's head.
A video still captures the moment when Paul O'Connell's foot connects with Dave Kearney's head.
Image: RaboDirect PRO12

SIX MONTHS ON from the crunching head kick sustained by Dave Kearney, from Paul O’Connell’s boot, the two players meet again.

Kearney lines up on the left wing for Leinster and will feature in his fifth straight league game for the province. O’Connell takes a familiar place in Munster’s second row and is joined by the player most likely to partner him against Australia and New Zealand in November — Donnacha Ryan.

A lot of rugby has been played since O’Connell’s boot temporarily rendered Kearney unconscious near the end of his side’s 22 — 16 win over Munster at Thomond Park. The Louth native had landed with a thump after securing a high ball. Dazed, Kearney still managed to present the ball for his teammates but O’Connell, in the haze of battle, saw it as a loose egg and went to boot it upfield.

The lock made a sickening connection and play carried on briefly until the severity of Kearney’s injury became apparent. The lack of a reaction from the Leinster players near Kearney, at the time, goes some way towards explaining how quickly events transpired.

YouTube credit: RaboDirect PRO12

The first thing Kearney uttered when he had regained consciousness in the away dressing, according to then-Leinster coach Joe Schmidt, was ‘Did I catch it?’ The 24-year-old had caught more than the ball. Concussion ruled him out for the remainder of the season and meant Kearney missed out on two finals and an Irish summer tour to North America [the Tbilisi Cup also took place for Emeging Ireland].

A contrite O’Connell featured twice more last season after the Kearney incident — Heineken Cup defeat to Clermont and Pro12 win over Zebre — but showed enough class in the Spring to ensure a call-up with the British and Irish Lions. His form Down Under was immense but a broken arm forced him to miss out on the Second and Third Tests.

Former Leinster and Ireland hooker Shane Byrne told TheScore.ie that Kearney has recovered well from having his bell comprehensively rung.

“Dave has been playing very well,” said Byrne. “He has been imperious in the air and scored a nice couple of tries [against Scarlets and Ospreys]. Having lost Isa Nacewa, who was a Leinster stalwart for four seasons, Kearney has filled in well on the wing.” Byrne added:

You don’t need any added motivation for this game. The stories and memories from last season are almost irrelevant at this stage. This game is full throttle and full-on. The captains, normally, have very little to say before kick-off.

“This is the game and that is all the motivation these players need.”

*TheScore.ie will be covering Munster v Leinster live from 5:30pm today.

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Patrick McCarry

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