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Dave Kearney striving to reclaim Ireland shirt after injury

By David Kelly

Dave Kearney doesn't need to spot the subtly accumulating snow drifts on his beloved Cooley Mountains to absorb the accelerating advance of the season.

Time is marching on; Joe Schmidt will announce an Ireland squad in the next fortnight and the Louth native hopes, once more, to be in his plans.

After losing a significant swathe of 2014 through injury following his immense contribution to Ireland's championship success, he may have timed his return to fitness with the skill expected of someone who spends much of his life on the wing.

Alongside Andrew Trimble, the two wings were a seemingly immoveable force in the back three as Schmidt's Ireland doggedly asserted European dominion.

By November, Schmidt's overly prescriptive game plan was utterly inured to disruptions in personnel - now both injured, neither Trimble nor Kearney played a minute in the hat-trick of wins.

Simon Zebo has now emerged as a full member of the Schmidt system, Lion Tommy Bowe, an automatic starter, is fully fit while Fergus McFadden, Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls are also options.

Hence, Kearney's task is to remain relevant; he has never been a scoring machine and Schmidt is keen on his defensive duties.

"I'm starting to get back into things fully now," says the 25-year-old. "It's always the case that you feel pressure to deliver straight away, especially when there's so much competition in the squad. There's always pressure on you.

"I just want to keep building on performances week in, week out and try to get my hands on the ball a bit more and build on that.

"There's definitely a lot of competition now," he agrees. "Guys are fit and there are quality players in the backs for Ireland for one thing.

"And I think it's the same at Leinster. There are so many quality guys. All our wingers are international class so there is always going to be competition and it pushes you on as a player."

Jamie Heaslip, meanwhile, trained "as normal" yesterday as Leinster ponder whether to risk him this weekend; they will also announce later whether they will risk appealing Jack McGrath's three-week ban for stamping.

Belfast Telegraph

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