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Ireland's flying winger Dave Kearney going nowhere... fast

By Niall Crozier

In the countdown to Ireland's crunch clash with Wales in the RBS 6 Nations on Saturday, Leinster wing Dave Kearney delivered a fillip by revealing that he is signing a contract extension.

That completes an excellent round of negotiations by the IRFU, will all of their targets now committed for further periods of service. What a contrast between the situations in Ireland and Wales.

At the Irish squad's Six Nations camp at Carton House yesterday, the 24-year-old said: "It's pretty much sorted now. I'm going to look to get in now in the next couple of days and sign up.

"I'm really happy. It is obviously where I want to play and where I want to be."

With Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls sidelined by injury and Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo requiring more game-time for Ulster and Munster respectively following their time out, Kearney – younger brother of full-back Rob – is enjoying his opportunity to make up for lost time.

He might have earned his first cap two years ago when Ireland hosted the Welsh, but it failed to materialise and he ended up waiting until last November to make his international bow.

When finally it came, it was against Samoa and having joined the match from the bench, Kearney made it a debut to remember by bagging two tries.

Recalling the initial disappointment at having to wait he said: "I found myself in a good position to have a chance of getting my first cap. Unfortunately, that didn't come for another year and a half.

"In that meantime, I played with the (Ireland) As, got a lot of Heineken Cup game-time and developed as a player."

His first start at international level came a fortnight later – against the mighty All Blacks. What a match in which to have played from the kick-off.

Asked whether he now has a real sense of truly belonging in the Ireland squad, he replied: "I'm starting to feel pretty comfortable, yeah.

"On a personal level, I think I took a lot from the All Blacks game.

"When you look at the quality they have, you find yourself playing against the best team in the world. And I was happy with my performance that day.

"I think I took a lot of confidence from that."

Having faced the world champions in November, Saturday will see him pitted against a Welsh line-up boasting a host of Lions.

Wales have the lot in their back-line – pace, power, penetration, precision. A lesser man might be fearful of squaring up to Northampton Saints' George North and Cardiff Blues' pair Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny. But not Kearney.

"Prep has been going well so far," he said.

"We know how tough a task it is going to be. We know the quality that Wales have in their back three. They have got some serious athletes throughout the back line."

But, from his experience as a Leinster player, Kearney added: "We have come across them, be it with Northampton or Cardiff, this season already so we have played them a few times. We know what they like to do and how they like to play but it is certainly gonna be pretty tough.

"We've done a lot of video work on their back line and then it is down to yourself as well to do a bit of work too so you know what to expect.

"It is going to be different because those lads have a lot of power and pace and they are quite big.

"From an individual point you just can't afford to give them much space because when you give guys like North and Cuthbert space they will take it."

The Dundalk man's gaelic football background will not do him any harm in the fight for aerial supremacy against Cuthbert. And even though the Welsh wing has all the physical advantages – 6ft 6ins (1.98m) and 16st 9lbs (106kg) versus 5ft 11ins (1.8m) and 14st 4lbs (91kg) – Kearney appears not to be intimidated.

"It's all about technique when it comes to being dominant in the air, no matter how tall your opposition winger is. It's all about your timing on the ball and getting up to it quickly," said the man who "won a couple of championships" as a midfielder for Cooley minors. "Even if my winger is taller this week, if I'm selected I'm still going to try and get up and dominate that space."

Belfast Telegraph


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