'Ian Madigan has earned the right to make a decision that suits nobody better than himself'
Published 29/12/2015 | 02:30
There have been more than a few voices from the bleachers in recent weeks and months ruminating noisily about Ian Madigan's next move and how somehow it should benefit Irish rugby more than Ian Madigan.
Few seemed as overly agitated as to how Ian Madigan's next move might benefit Ian Madigan.
The best thing about yesterday's confirmation from Leinster Rugby, that the 26-year-old will spend two years in the rather hospitable environment of France's sixth largest city, is that Madigan has decided to prioritise the only thing that matters at this time in his rugby career and life's journey.
For so much of this talented play-maker's professional life, everyone's regard for him has always been couched with a qualification.
An out-half at heart, yet gifted enough to play across the three-quarter line - and even to be awarded the dubious distinction of being nominated as Ireland's emergency scrum-half option during his country's abortive World Cup campaign - he has spent his career in one city yet always amidst a dizzying blur of constant change.
His versatility has unsettled him, rather than becalmed him; so many times on the big occasion for both Leinster and Ireland, Madigan has been deemed a second-choice.
True, on many of those occasions, he has deserved to be, usually because the first-choice - predominantly Sexton - is obviously the superior player.
And yet, as much as so many have not trusted Madigan to steer either his club or country - at this point, one should remember that Ian Keatley was preferred to him at ten for a Six Nations tie less than 12 months ago - he retains the deeply-held conviction, as he must, that there is a limit to the limitations others place upon him.
These limitations threatened to extend to his immediate future in the game which is where Munster came in.
Ironically, less than 24 hours before he rejected a move to Anthony Foley's struggling side, Madigan had been afforded a rare opportunity to start at ten for Leinster and, emboldened by the security for one evening only, he looked utterly comfortable in his own skin.
At once, this demonstrated the benefit that Madigan might receive from starting regularly at ten.
Munster, as they have shown with their ongoing struggle to adequately fill the No 10 shirt, needed Madigan much more than he needed - or even wanted - them.
Their less-than-enthusiastic public response to the suggestions that he move south were also a factor in his rejection.
Then again, would he have needed the pressure? He would have witnessed the treatment dished out to fellow Dubliner Keatley when he was booed off earlier this month and wondered did he really need the hassle.
Bordeaux are fifth in Top 14, playing in the Champions Cup and, unlike the then Racing Metro rabble to which Sexton arrived two years ago, there is a settled nature to the squad led by Raphael Ibanez.
And, unlike that Racing side where Sexton had a steadily enervating two-year stint, Bordeaux like to play some ball - Madigan, the playmaker supreme and, perhaps, less suited to the current Irish international game which focuses more on strength than subtlety, will fit right in.
He is destined to return, presuming he chooses to so do, a better player. Leinster coach Leo Cullen certainly believes that another prodigal return is more than a possibility as he paid tribute to his former Blackrock College alumnus.
"Ian has been a tremendous servant to Leinster and Irish rugby and we wish him well with his move abroad," said the Leinster boss.
"We fully understand his motivations for deciding to join Bordeaux. Ian has come through the Leinster Academy and age-grade system and at 26 still has a huge future in the game and we may see him return to Leinster at some point.
"The key thing for us all now is that we are fully focused on a huge game on Friday against Connacht. After some really pleasing parts to our last performance it's vital that we build on that and look to continually improve."
It is not Ian Madigan's fault if Leinster, or Munster, or Irish rugby, loses out because of his decision - nor, indeed, should it ever be his responsibility.
His debt to Leinster should not be one that imprisons him; in contrast, the liberation he has now been allowed to enrich not only his bank balance, but his professional skill-set, will ultimately benefit all concerned.
He has earned the right to make a decision for himself and he should be applauded for making what seems, on all counts, a thoroughly well-informed one that, as it should do, suits nobody better than himself.