Another honour for Kearney as he continues on road to recovery
In what has proved to be a multi-decorated if ultimately frustrating 2012, Rob Kearney last night received the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year award at a function in the Aviva Stadium.
This follows on from his ERC European Player of the Year, IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year, Leinster Players’ Player of the Year and Irish Supporters’ Player of the Year.
The 26-year-old, who remains optimistic of a mid-January return after a successful operation on a slipped disc in his back almost three weeks ago, is enduring the all-too-typical slings and arrows of a frontline career after a stellar 2011-12 campaign in which he was the stand-out performer in Leinster’s Heineken Cup-winning campaign and in Ireland’s Six Nations.
“After your players and your peers, of course the journalists have a huge say in how rugby is perceived and how players are perceived. After your players it’s the nicest one to get,” he said. “There have been a load of ups and downs in the season too. The way that it finished, with the Rabo Direct and the tour to New Zealand tour probably gave it a pretty sour taste towards the end of the season. But then as soon as you come back for pre-season, you really have to move on and you often see players who pick up awards and then the following season they fall off the radar a bit.
“So I’m a little bit worried how these awards can kind of jinx you at times. It can be a bit of a poisoned chalice at times perhaps, so my real focus has to be making sure that I don’t drop off that level too much.”
Kearney was relieved to awake from his surgery “a different man”, and pain free for the first time in many months, though his chances of featuring in Leinster’s Heineken Cup group campaign are touch and go.
Kearney underwent surgery on Thursday October 28th, and has been advised to do little or nothing for six weeks before a projected six-week rehabilitation programme which, all things going well, would put him on course for Leinster’s final group game in the Heineken Cup away to Exeter.
“The first six weeks are critical because after a procedure like this the chance of a relapse is quite high, so your surgeon’s advice has to be pure gospel. You have to do exactly what you’re told, you have to be really careful in the first six weeks and do just light stuff but after six weeks I can start to be a little bit more aggressive and then hopefully be back within six weeks of that.”
Kearney’s province, Leinster, were awarded the Dave Guiney Team of the Year honour after claiming the European Cup for the third time in four years, and St Mary’s College RFC were voted Club of the Year after winning the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League.
Claire Molloy picked up the Women’s Player of the Year after a fantastic season which included captaining the Ireland Women’s Sevens Team in the European Championships which has qualified for the Rugby World Cup in 2013.
The Tom Rooney Award went to Kelly Wilson for his exceptional contribution to the game over the years. The former NIFC, Ulster and Ireland player was one of the driving forces when North and Collegians combined to form Belfast Harlequins, where he is currently president.
Paddy Berkery, the 11-times capped Irish fullback from the 50s and stalwart of Lansdowne, and Ciaran Fitzgerald who captained Connacht, Ireland and the Lions before coaching Ireland, were inducted into the Guinness Hall of Fame.