Cooley Kickhams thrilled at Rob Kearney's return: 'It's a lift for everyone'

Better known as a full back during his glittering rugby career, the 35-year-old from Willville on the Cooley Peninsula lined out at full forward for a league game at Father McEvoy Park.
Cooley Kickhams thrilled at Rob Kearney's return: 'It's a lift for everyone'

Former Ireland and Leinster star Rob Kearney playing for Cooley Kickhams GAC during the Hollywood Developments Division 1 League match against Newtown Blues at Fr McEvoy Park in Carlingford, Louth. Photo by Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile

Former Ireland and Leinster rugby star Rob Kearney returned to his roots on Sunday as he lined out for his local GAA club Cooley Kickhams for the first time in 17 years.

Better known as a full back during his glittering rugby career, the 35-year-old from Willville on the Cooley Peninsula lined out at full forward for the game at Father McEvoy Park.

Despite the support of his brother Dave - also a Leinster and Ireland rugby star - and girlfriend Jess Reddan, Kearney couldn't get amongst the scorers as his side lost out by 3-12 to 0-9 in the Division One League match against the Newtown Blues from Drogheda.

Despite the defeat, Cooley Kickhams chairman Adrian Sheelan said it was a huge boost to have such a talent back in the side.

"He probably will be a real asset eventually but he's obviously not match fit right now," said Sheelan.

"He did all right on Sunday. He didn't do anything wrong but he probably could have finished with a goal and a point but he did all right.

"It's a bit of a lift for everyone. Every club needs a bit of a lift now and again. It was very good of him to come back."

While Kearney played at full forward on Sunday, Sheelan is hopeful he will eventually return to the midfield position where he starred as a youngster.

"I'd love to see him go back to what he was which was a midfielder. That's all he ever was but it's good to have him back and hopefully, he'll give everyone a boost ahead of the championship.

"There were a lot of photographers there on Sunday and we have high numbers training, over 40, which we had before this anyway but this just adds to it," said Sheelan.

Kearney recently resumed training with his boyhood club after returning from Australia, where he lined out with Western Force for one season.

His return to the GAA pitch came 17 years after his last outing, also for Cooley Kickhams, in a 0-7 to 0-6 county final defeat to neighbours St Patrick's in the 2004 Louth SFC showpiece. Kearney was a point scorer for his side in that narrow defeat in Dundalk when he was managed by Down legend Pete McGrath.

Prior to that Kearney had represented Louth at underage level and was part of a side that included the county's only ever All Star, Paddy Keenan, that took Dublin to a Leinster MFC semi-final replay in 2003.

He was already a Leinster academy graduate at that stage and destined for big things in the rugby world. He didn't disappoint either as he went on to win four European Cups, six PRO 14s, four Six Nations titles, two Grand Slams, a European Challenge Cup and a Lions Series win in 2013.

Kearney, who left Leinster last September, made 219 appearances for the province and won 95 Ireland caps. He also had two tours with the British and Irish Lions and was ERC Player of the Year in 2012.

While Kearney could only manage a couple of wides on his return, fans of Cooley Kickhams will be hoping the rugby legend can inspire the side to Intermediate Championship glory this autumn.

Tweeting about his return to the GAA pitch, Kearney said: "Kicked my fair share of wides but great to be back on a GAA pitch with @cooleykickhams."

Kearney has never represented the county at senior level but Ladbrokes are already offering odds of him pulling on the red shirt for Mickey Harte's side next year. The bookmaker has installed him at 14/1 to play for Louth in the 2022 Leinster SFC, while an All-Star next year is a much bigger price at 150/1.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.