SHANE HORGAN ADMITTED ‘it didn’t look great’ while Brent Pope said it ‘wasn’t deliberate’ but Leinster’s Dave Kearney wasn’t awake to hear the debate.
While O’Connell will surely claim he was seeking to hack away a ball presented by Kearney to his forwards, the brutal swipe was reckless. The lock is a passionate and committed player but he showed a worrying disregard for the safety of a man facing away from him and lying flat on the turf.
Kearney had to be carted off the Thomond Park pitch and Leinster coach Joe Schmidt revealed that it took him several minutes to regain consciousness.
He told TheScore.ie, “He was unconscious for a period of time. He’s come back around and has probably asked the question 10 times, ‘Did I catch it?’
He’s going to be pretty relieved when he sees the footage that he did catch the ball. He’s not in great shape at the moment. The main disappointment at the moment is, he has really come on. He’s played a number of games in a row and was getting into a rhythm. He’s likely to miss a few games now. That’s probably his biggest frustration.”
Asked if O’Connell should be cited for the incident, Schmidt replied, “To be honest, that’s not my domain. Whatever comes of that, comes of it.”
George Hook, speaking on RTE after the match, called the Munster man “careless”. He added, “He’s no [David] Beckham. Kearney’s head was within the margin of error of where the ball [was]… O’Connell may pay for that carelessness.”
Paul O’Connell checks on the unconscious Dave Kearney. (©INPHO/James Crombie)
Speaking about the victory, which leaves Leinster second in the Pro12 standings, Schmidt said he was ‘delighted with the result’.
He added, “That’s an incredibly combative Munster side. I bet Clermont are upset that Harlequins lost because they know what they are getting – that’s a hell of a game coming up.”
Asked if he thought Rob Kearney’s close call, which was ruled out by the TMO in the first-half, was a try, Schmidt said, “Yes I do.”