Rugger brothers: the sporting ambitions of the Kearney boys
The rugby playing Kearney brothers tell Una Mullally about their sporting hopes, those falling out of nightclubs rumours, and who cooks their Christmas turkey
Rob Kearney (on right) congratulates his brother Dave after he scored a try against Samoa last month. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Dave (on left) and Rob Kearney at Druid’s Glen Resort in Wicklow this week. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
‘Jesus!” Rob Kearney says. I am pitting him against his brother, Dave. What are each other’s best and worst traits, on and off the pitch? “We’ll be fighting after this,” Dave says. Rob thinks about the question. “We won’t be having Christmas at home at all now.”
At Druid’s Glen Hotel in Wicklow, there are a few squirrels playing on the other side of the window and a young chap bombing around in a golf buggy. In the lobby, there are Jurassic Park-type water-in-the-glass tremors on the floor as a clutch of Irish rugby players are moved around for a photocall set up to plug the hotel and golf resort.
It’s always kind of odd seeing a load of rugby players in the flesh. On the pitch they’re barrelling into the opposition, clashing bodies, gurning through their gum shields as they land a try. But out of stadiums, they’re much more zen, gliding around almost like South Park characters, existing behind the tinted windows of the types of cars wealthy professionals drive, pulling in to stylish bachelor pads and Instagramming photos of their pedigree, manly dogs.
Over the past decade or so, Irish rugby players have managed to portray a type of masculinity that is one part brutishness, one part suave, one part athlete, one part new man. Blame O’Driscoll, maybe, but it’s an infinitely marketable combination.
And nothing is more marketable than brothers. Rob and Dave Kearney, bound towards a table. The younger, Dave (24), is sporting black Nike Blazers trainers and a nice watch he got as a 21st birthday present a few years ago. The older, Rob (27), is bigger, and wearing what can only be described as salmon-coloured trousers. What I previously mistook for a tan on Rob are actually freckles.
The brothers, who are from Dundalk, started with Gaelic football, then rugby at Clongowes Wood College. Rob excelled first, playing for Leinster at schoolboy level and then UCD during his Arts degree. He had a dream debut as a senior player for Leinster, scoring three tries. His international career ran parallel with club and college, representing Ireland all the way up. He knows what winning feels like, after Ireland’s dream Six Nations in 2009. He’s been a Lion twice, in 2009 and 2013.
Coming up on the inside is Dave, the softer spoken (sometimes to the point of inaudibility) of the two. Like his older brother, he’s good at debuts, scoring two tries during his first cap for Ireland. Rob is incredibly fast and dexterous; Dave is strong, head down, fizzing potential, understated.
“Did we ever play Gaelic together?” Rob asks Dave when they’re trying to remember their first sporting interaction. As kids, they’d mess around in the garden, or on a golf course, or playing tennis. But their first proper game together on the same team wasn’t until 2009, Dave’s first cap for Leinster. “I suppose, it’s always going to be the older one, isn’t it?” Rob says, talking about who was the dominant sportsperson as a child. “Then Dave slowly started to catch up with me, and he’s overtaking me now.”
It must be great fun, all the same, for their family to watch matches where two sons are playing.
“Siobhán Kearney doesn’t think that!” Rob says of their mother. “I think she gets nervous before the big games,” Dave adds. “I think she enjoys the before and the after, if no one gets hurt,” Rob says, “but the 80 minutes? I’m pretty sure she doesn’t enjoy it too much. Dad’s the ultimate rugby fan, loves rugby, loves everything about it.” Dave says their father David is at the game about three hours before kick off – just in case he misses anything.