Rob Kearney has penned an emotional farewell message to Leinster and Ireland, saying he has lived out his dream as he prepares to move on to the next chapter.
The full-back won 95 caps and four Six Nations Championship titles with Ireland across a nine-year period, including two memorable Grand Slams in 2009 and 2018.
He also won four Champions Cups with Leinster, a Challenge Cup and six Guinness PRO14 titles – lifting the trophy with Fergus McFadden when they retained the title earlier this month.
But the 34-year-old has now confirmed the end of his Leinster and Ireland career, expressing his gratitude to fans, teammates, coaches and his family in a heartfelt message.
He writes on the Leinster website: “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.
“It wasn’t my last involvement with the team and Ferg and I were granted the unbelievable honour of lifting a trophy on behalf of the 53 players two weeks later.
“You always want one more as a player. The next one becomes the most important. The next match, the next trophy, the next training session even. That is the process, that is the drive within us.
“It wasn’t to be, but I am so very grateful for every run out that I did get in a Leinster and an Ireland jersey. Losing to Saracens brought my time in a Leinster jersey and by extension an Irish jersey to an end.
“I spoke to the players in the dressing room after the game and I spoke about living a dream because that is what I have done.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have done the greatest thing that I could have done with my life and I have lived the dreams that I first had as a young lad in Dundalk RFC with the minis.
“I also consider myself very fortunate because I have parents that supported and facilitated that dream and still do to this day.”
Kearney also hailed the support he has received from Ireland and Leinster supporters over the years, highlighting the sea of green at Twickenham for the 2018 Grand Slam decider.
He 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.”