Rob Kearney is calling time on his Leinster career after 15 years but he hasn't left without thanking everyone who helped him along the way.
After a glittering career in rugby, Leinster and Ireland legend Rob Kearney is finally hanging up his boots. Having helped Leinster to four European Champions Cup titles and six Pro14s, many supporters would argue that it is they who need to thank the full-back but Kearney has made sure to acknowledge their contribution to all his success.
In a letter posted on the Leinster Rugby website this morning, the 34-year-old started by, well, he wasn't exactly sure where to start, as he explains: 'Where to begin? Maybe I’ll start at the end. My 219th and final cap against Ulster a few weeks ago in the Aviva Stadium. Nearly 15 years to the day from my debut against Ospreys in 2005. I hoped it wouldn’t be my last involvement in a Leinster jersey, but the reality is that in sport and professional sport especially, you just never know when you will get a chance again, so you treasure each chance you get in that jersey.'
The lengthy statement went on to pay tribute teammates, coaches and his family, in particular his brother and fellow Leinster and Ireland man Dave, of whom he says: 'You have made the last 11 years all the better for having you by my side every day and I’ll miss that the most.'
He also addresses his fiancée Jess, writing: 'It’s time to start our next adventure and I can’t wait to do it with you by my side.'
A number of paragraphs are dedicated to Leinster and Ireland supporters, as Rob continues: 'You never get to write the script, but if I could, it would go as far as a packed RDS or Aviva in front of thousands of Leinster and Irish Rugby supporters where I would have had the opportunity to thank you all.
'The Leinster and Ireland supporters’ role in this journey has been special and running out in front of full stadia is what gives the greatest buzz and we have all missed that over the last few months and you appreciate it all the more now playing in empty arenas.
'I remember when we played away in Toulouse in the European Quarter-Final in 2006. Nobody gave us a chance but we came away with a win and played some unbelievable rugby along the way. It was the first time that I could sense the belief in the support as well. That trip home to Dublin and looking into the eyes of the supporters that had made the trip. Belief.
'You all felt the same as us. That this club could become a mainstay of European rugby, a firepower to be reckoned with and you’ve stayed with us for every step since.
For Ireland, the sea of green in Chicago and in Twickenham on St. Patrick’s Day for our Grand Slam decider are images that will be ingrained in me for life.'
Rob Kearney is one of only two players, alongside Rory Best, who were involved in both Ireland's Grand Slam successes in 2009 and 2018. While we won't be seeing him in a Leinster jersey again, the Irish Independent is reporting that Kearney has an agreement in place with a new club and a deal will be announced in the coming days.
A sad day for Leinster supporters and rugby fans across Ireland. You can read Rob Kearney's letter in full via this link.
(header pic: Leinster Rugby on YouTube)