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Heineken Cup
Kearney claims Player of the Year award
ESPN Staff
May 21, 2012
Rob Kearney wins the ERC European Player of the Year award
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Players/Officials: Rob Kearney
Tournaments/Tours: Heineken Cup
Teams: Ireland | Leinster

Leinster fullback Rob Kearney has been named the ERC European Player of the Year.

The prestigious award crowns an outstanding season for the fullback who started every one of Leinster's nine European games as the Irish province powered to a third Heineken Cup title in four years. Kearney succeeds team-mate, Sean O'Brien, as the winner of northern hemisphere rugby's ultimate individual accolade.

The 26-year-old scored six tries during the campaign and pushed himself into contention for the honour with a series of high-quality displays in the tournament's pool and knock-out stages. He scored two tries in the quarter-final victory over the Cardiff Blues, then followed that up by creating a try for Cian Healy and landing a superb drop goal in the thrilling semi-final success against ASM Clermont Auvergne, before playing a key role in Leinster's record-breaking 42-14 final win over Ulster Rugby at Twickenham Stadium last Saturday.

"It really is an honour to have won this award," said Kearney who will attempt to complete a Heineken Cup-RaboDirect PRO12 double along with the rest of his side when they tackle the Ospreys on Sunday. "While I am delighted with the recognition, an individual player is powerless without the support of his teammates. So I owe this to the Leinster squad, to the management and to all the backroom staff at the club."

Kearney was presented with his award by ERC chief executive Derek McGrath who commented: "Rob was both rock-solid in defence and inspirational in attack during what was another magnificent Heineken Cup campaign for our 2012 champions. He scored six tries, ran powerfully, kicked superbly and the sheer all-round quality of his performances made him an excellent choice as ERC European Player of the Year 2012."

The search for the best player from the 44 clubs in ERC's two tournaments, the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup, was undertaken by a Judging Panel which comprised of Stuart Barnes (Sky Sports), Raphael Ibanez (2011/12 Heineken Cup Ambassador), Stephen Jones (Rugby Correspondent, The Sunday Times), Emmanuel Massicard (Editor, Midi Olympique) and Gerry Thornley (Rugby Correspondent, The Irish Times).

The expert panel settled on a shortlist of five players - Stephen Ferris (Ulster Rugby), Rob Ruan Pienaar (Ulster Rugby), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster Rugby), Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon) and Kearney - that was then circulated to clubs and fans for their opinions. Their thoughts were then taken into consideration as the panel settled on a winner.

ERC Player of the Year winners:
2012 - Rob Kearney (Leinster)
2011 - Sean O'Brien (Leinster)
2010 - Ronan O'Gara (Munster)

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