Last May, he was approaching the end of a season in which he had finally nailed down wing spots with both club and country and then he went and tore an interior cruciate ligament in the PRO12 semi-final against Ulster.
Missing the final defeat of Glasgow was bad enough, but his recovery also cost him any part in Ireland’s undefeated November series in which Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo were first choice along the touchlines.
Now, here Kearney is, with just two PRO12 games under his belt since his return and hoping to edge his way into Matt O’Connor’s side as they prepare for Sunday’s round three Champions Cup visit to face Harlequins at The Stoop.
“It happens so many times to players coming in where someone is injured and it gives opportunity to someone else to perform. The fact that a couple of lads were on international duty was good for me in terms of getting game time, coming straight back into it.
“I would like to think that some of the performances last year would have helped as well with the coaches (but), in the bigger picture, you are back to the bottom of the barrel and need to fight and get your back place back.”
Leinster aren’t short of options in the back three, with the likes of his brother Rob, former Springbok Zane Kirchner, Fergus McFadden and Luke Fitzgerald (when fit) also in the mix. And then there is Darragh Fanning.
A journeyman AIL player until recently, Fanning has grabbed his late opportunity at provincial level in some style. So far this season he has played every minute of Leinster’s 11 games and scored five tries – against Wasps, Munster and Treviso.
“He’s been going great,” said Kearney. “He’s had a lot of game time this season. I think he’s played nearly every game and he’s played very well. It’s not different. That’s what it was like before.”
Leinster go into the weekend with what was a favourable injury update on those rated doubtful after last Saturday’s defeat of Ospreys at the RDS, although their penchant for late line-up changes urges caution in that regard.
Ian Madigan, who rolled an ankle against the Welsh region, is being talked up as a likely participant in London although, like Fitzgerald (groin) and hooker Richardt Strauss (hamstring), he is yet to resume full training.
“From the reports, the swelling is going down and he’ll have a run around (today),” said scrum coach Marco Caputo. “He’s going to be heavily strapped up. He’s a player who doesn’t normally play with too much strapping. He likes to keep his ankles free so he can strike the ball and that mightn’t be an option for him. We’re hopeful he can get through (today) and, if he does, he should be available.”
Meanwhile, locks Kane Douglas and Mike McCarthy are going through ‘return-to-play’ concussion protocols and their availability or otherwise will also be decided as the week goes on.