Dave Kearney marked his first Ireland cap in 19 months with a win and a try — but still left the Aviva Stadium disappointed.
The 23-20 win over Fiji included a first-half touchdown by the Leinster winger, on his first Ireland appearance since the February 2016 Six Nations defeat to France.
That should put a smile on the face of any player, but Kearney’s intercepted pass that led to Timosi Nagusa’s try just before half-time was all he was thinking about after the final whistle.
“Personally, the first half went well, I’d a couple of nice touches and a couple of decent tackles but obviously I was disappointed to give that intercept pass away, that’s dampening my performance a bit,” he said.
“The Fijians love to do that, especially the wingers, but I didn’t see him at the time. I tried to whip the ball across to Stuart McCloskey, he had a nice bit of space but I didn’t get him the ball. I saw Nagusa pop it up in the air and he grabbed it.
“I’ll take the positives out of it, it’s just straight after a game you think about the negatives that you do and you don’t really think about the positives that much.
“Joe said to me afterwards that there were still some positives in that performance as well, which is good to hear too.
“It was a tough game, a physical game, and it was a disappointed dressing room to be honest. Obviously we got the result but performance wise it probably wasn’t up to scratch.”
Kearney started on the left wing, earning his 17th cap
. He never gave up hope that he could push himself back into the spotlight.
“You always have to back yourself and I did, I had confidence there and self-belief,” said Kearney.
“But you’ve got to give yourself a chance. I know the competition that’s there in the back three, there’s a lot, and when you get a chance you have to take it as best you can because there’s always lads who can come in straight away, there were lads last week who did well on the wings.
“It was great to be back on Saturday, it’s been a year-and-a-half since I last got to put on a green jersey, it is a long time,” he added.
“The whole build-up to the game, the day of the game and getting to sing the anthem again... and facing the Fijian war dance, it’s all brilliant and it probably gives you an extra bit of motivation.
“It gives you a feel for it again, to keep working hard and try to get back in the team.”
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