While the arrival of the Leinster team to the Dundalk RFC and the Ballymascanlon Hotel was most of the squad a interesting getaway from the confines their UCD training complex, for two brothers it held much more signifcance.
“When David and I were in s chool we used to come up the Ballymasonlon to go swimming, so it was a little weird to be back there today,” Rob told the assembled media scrum on Wednesday. Indeed the Lions and Ireland star tweeted on Wednesdy that: “Great to be back in home in Louth for a few days. Dundalk RFC tommorrow for an open session...Where it all started for myself and David.”
Carlingford born and bred, both Rob and David were clearly impressed by the turnout at the ‘Club on the Hill’.
“I think that is definitely something that Irish people do well. When you visit rural parts of the country, there is definitely a strong sense of the ownership of the players from their area.”
David was also equally impressed with the 2,500, mainly young people who turned out .
“This is the club were we first took full contact, it’s where it all started for both of us.”
Last year was a breakthrough year for the younger, Kearney, and he was looking to build on it.
“There is great competition in the squad, and that drives each of us on, no matter what position.”
And judging by amount of female fans crowding around and asking for photosgraphs with David, his star is very much in the ascendancy.
The two night trip to Dundalk was just the second time the squad had travelled with the full entourage, and it was a major coup for the Ballymascanlon.
“We were extremely happy to have the Leinster squad visit us here at the hotel. They were all absolute gentlemen and very down to earth,” owner/manager of the Ballymascanlon, Niall Quinn, told the paper on Thursday. “We had 75 here the first night and we have 40 again here tonight, who are travelling on to Belfast tommorrow.”
“The only specific request from the team, and this is true of whereever they go, is the food. They need high protein food and lots of it. Because of the amount of gym work and training they do, they need lots of calories each day. They have a dietician who has specific foods for each player. No processed carbs or cereals are allowed. We stuck rigidly to everything specified by the dietician.
“We tried to keep it as low key as possible, as Leinster did not want hundreds of people turning up.
“ That said the squad were extremely gracious with all their fans and signed any autographs that were asked of them. “
The Ballymascanlon were also lucky enough to grab a full squad photograph when the team arrived, which will be hung in the hotel.
“They were very happy with the hotel, and we were very happy with them.”