Kearney “lived the dream” as he calls time on Leinster and Ireland career

Two-time British & Irish Lions tourist Rob Kearney says he has “lived the dream” after confirming the end of his Leinster and Ireland career in an emotional message. [more]

Kearney “lived the dream” as he calls time on Leinster and Ireland career

The 34-year-old full-back donned the famous red Lions jersey on the 2009 and 2013 Tours to South Africa and Australia, making eight appearances in total – including three Test caps.

He also won 95 caps and four Six Nations Championship titles with Ireland across a nine-year international career, including two memorable Grand Slams in 2009 and 2018.

And with Leinster, Kearney won four Champions Cups, a Challenge Cup and six Guinness PRO14 titles – lifting the trophy with Fergus McFadden when they retained the title this year.

But the 34-year-old has now confirmed the end of his Leinster and Ireland career, expressing his gratitude to fans, teammates, coaches and his family in a heartfelt message.

He writes on the Leinster website: “Where to begin? Maybe I’ll start at the end. My 219th and final cap against Ulster a few weeks ago in the Aviva Stadium. Nearly 15 years to the day from my debut against Ospreys in 2005.

“I hoped it wouldn’t be my last involvement in a Leinster jersey, but the reality is that in sport and professional sport especially, you just never know when you will get a chance again, so you treasure each chance you get in that jersey.

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“It wasn’t my last involvement with the team and Ferg and I were granted the unbelievable honour of lifting a trophy on behalf of the 53 players two weeks later.

“You always want one more as a player. The next one becomes the most important. The next match, the next trophy, the next training session even. That is the process, that is the drive within us.

“It wasn’t to be, but I am so very grateful for every run out that I did get in a Leinster and an Ireland jersey. Losing to Saracens brought my time in a Leinster jersey and by extension an Irish jersey to an end.

“I spoke to the players in the dressing room after the game and I spoke about living a dream because that is what I have done.

“I have lived the dream of every five-year-old boy or girl out there that dreams of pulling on a Leinster jersey, an Ireland jersey, a Lions jersey.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have done the greatest thing that I could have done with my life and I have lived the dreams that I first had as a young lad in Dundalk RFC with the minis.

“I also consider myself very fortunate because I have parents that supported and facilitated that dream and still do to this day.”

One of the highlights of Kearney’s career came on the 2009 Tour to South Africa when the full-back scored a try and produced an aerial masterclass in the second Test in Pretoria.

And Kearney also hailed the support he has received from supporters over the years, stating his wish to have finished his time with Leinster and Ireland under different circumstances.

He continues: “You never get to write the script, but if I could, it would go as far as a packed RDS or Aviva in front of thousands of Leinster and Irish Rugby supporters where I would have had the opportunity to thank you all.

“The Leinster and Ireland supporters’ role in this journey has been special and running out in front of full stadia is what gives the greatest buzz and we have all missed that over the last few months and you appreciate it all the more now playing in empty arenas.

“I remember when we played away in Toulouse in the European Quarter-Final in 2006. Nobody gave us a chance but we came away with a win and played some unbelievable rugby along the way.

“It was the first time that I could sense the belief in the support as well. That trip home to Dublin and looking into the eyes of the supporters that had made the trip. Belief.

“You all felt the same as us. That this club could become a mainstay of European rugby, a firepower to be reckoned with and you’ve stayed with us for every step since.

“For Ireland, the sea of green in Chicago and in Twickenham on St. Patrick’s Day for our Grand Slam decider are images that will be ingrained in me for life.”

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