Sat, May 19, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Kearneys ready to join elite band

AFP, London

Rob and Dave Kearney are dreaming of joining the elite band of “Brothers in Arms” who have celebrated European rugby glory fighting for the same cause.

The silverware-hunting Irish siblings are poised to team up for Leinster when the reigning champions do battle with the 1999 winners Ulster at the home of English rugby in Twickenham today.

Four sets of brothers have European Cup winners’ medals: Philippe and Olivier Carbonneau (Toulouse, 1996), Jan and Bryn Cunningham (Ulster Rugby, 1999), Martin and Will Johnson (Leicester Tigers, 2001 and 2002) and Isitolo and Finau Maka (Toulouse, 2005).

That could become five this weekend.

Rob Kearney, 26, who has won 38 Ireland caps, is one of three Irishmen nominated in a list of five candidates for European Player of the Year award, along with teammate Jonathan Sexton and Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris.

He has enjoyed a stunning campaign, scoring six tries in total, including two in the quarter-final destruction of Cardiff Blues and a match-winning monster drop-goal to beat Clermont Auvergne in the semis.

Fullback Rob starts his first European Cup final, having missed last year’s success over Northampton through injury and playing the last nine minutes of the 2009 triumph over Leicester as a replacement.

“Helping Leinster win a third Heineken Cup would be incredible. But if Dave is on the pitch at the same time it would make it even sweeter,” he said.

“Hopefully, that will be the scenario, but it’s going to be a very tough and competitive game. Ulster have shown just how durable and dangerous they can be. They have been very impressive in getting to the final and we won’t be taken them lightly,” he added.

Dave, four years younger than Rob and yet to be win full international honors, said: “It’s going to be a massive occasion. The whole of Ireland will be watching and the atmosphere [will be] electrifying. Twickenham will be painted green for a day.”

“I just hope I get on the field and play my part. Mind you, even if Ulster win there could be a different kind of successful sibling partnership,” he added.

For their director of rugby is former captain David Humphreys, whose brother Ian might well get the chance to feature at Twickenham.

Leinster, who expect to have inspirational Brian O’Driscoll fit from his knee problem, will start as favorites as they search for a third success in four seasons, but Ulster have their own history in the competition and believe they can upset the odds again.

Ulster and Ireland flanker Ferris, who was inspired in his side’s semi-final victory over Edinburgh at the Aviva Stadium, is confident his side can bridge the 13-year gap since they won their only European Cup with a 21-6 win over Colomiers in Dublin.

“The bookies and critics are writing us off, but that’s a good thing,” Ferris said. “We have the players and firepower to upset those odds. I am confident we will do ourselves justice — just as we have throughout this campaign, where people did not expect us to get this far.”

“So we have nothing to lose. We will give it the kitchen sink, as always,” he added.

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