'When you get a chance you have to be able to take it'
The Big Interview: John Madigan
Published 07/10/2016 | 02:30
Munster were on the brink of missing out on qualification for the Champions Cup when they were hammered 35-14 away to Connacht in the Sportsground last April.
It was a crisis for Anthony Foley's charges, but they pulled together and reeled off back-to-back bonus-point victories over Edinburgh and Scarlets.
Had they slipped from Europe's top tier it would have had devastating consequences for the province. But they begin their new campaign away to Racing 92 next weekend.
And it's a fresh start for Munster Rugby. Their move to the high performance centre at University of Limerick, coupled with the influx of coaching expertise from South Africa, has reinvigorated the troops.
"It has been great to have the new coaches and new perspectives. Everyone is trying really hard and everyone is out there to impress. There is loads of new energy and it's great to move into the one centre," says John Madigan.
"Everyone is together, we are provided with everything we need so hopefully we will kick on. And we can start challenging for things again going forward."
The 22-year-old lock, Madigan, had begun his own journey with Munster this time last year but that was cruelly cut short, and he has to begin all over again in 2016-'17.
The Charleville native made his debut for the province in their 18-13 victory over Treviso at Irish Independent Park in Round 1 of the Pro12 on September 5, 2015.
It was a massive step forward for his professional rugby career, but just four weeks later he feared for his future as a Munster player.
Madigan picked up a dreaded cruciate ligament injury playing for Dolphin in their 24-19 defeat to Old Wesley back at Irish Independent Park.
In one month, Madigan had gone from ecstasy to agony in the Cork venue and he was left to battle for a place back in the Munster set-up. And while he was out of the game, he also dealt with an ongoing shoulder complaint.
"I played the first Pro12 game, and then I played a game with Dolphin and then the week after that I ruptured my cruciate playing for Dolphin again. I basically missed the whole season with that.
"I had a shoulder issue all the time. It was just a bit of wear and tear on my shoulder. I might have partially dislocated it before. It was a bit unstable so they just decided to do a bit of keyhole surgery to patch it up.
"After nine months rehabbing my knee I didn't want to come back and be out for four months with my shoulder," he says.
But Madigan returned and with a full pre-season under his belt his is ready, fit and willing to make his mark under Rassie Erasmus and the new regime in Limerick.
Madigan graduated from UCC with a degree in Business Information Systems and he now lives in Castletroy, along with Jack O'Donoghue and Rory Scannell.
And despite some of the knee-jerk reactions that followed Munster's fall from grace last season, the team looks set to challenge for major honours in the years to come.
That all comes from competition and players having to raise their standards just to find a spot in the starting 15.
Madigan knows that more than many - he has to contend with captain Billy Holland, and internationals like Donnacha Ryan, Dave Foley and new recruit Jean Kleyn before he can get a look-in.
"It's going well now. I took part in the full pre-season which was a big bonus. It went fine and I am still just trying to get matches under my belt now. I have been unlucky in the last few years things just haven't gone my way.
"But I got a good pre-season and I have played a few games with Dolphin now as well. I have built myself back up to speed.
"There is a lot of competition. There are seven or eight of us there now. There is not much we can do now just keep training away hard and hopefully when the coaches give you a chance you have to be able to take it.
"In the last few seasons Billy has really come into his zone. Donnacha Ryan being an Irish international, it's great to be able to learn off these guys.
"It's just a great experience and you learn something new every day at training. That makes you and the team a better player."
But Madigan is determined to lock down his own place in the Munster team. He had it before injury robbed him of the chance to move forward last season and he wants to earn it back sooner rather than later.
With a one-year development deal the former Charleville CBS schoolboy knows that he needs to stake a claim. And despite the pressure that comes with constantly improving week on week, Madigan just wants to repay the faith that was placed in him while he was injured.
"That was the first thing that came to my mind when I tore my cruciate. I didn't know where I stood because I was going to be out for the rest of the season.
"But thank God they had a bit of faith in me with the development contract and I was delighted they showed a bit of confidence in me going forward.
"Just looking ahead now, trying to get a clean bill of health, get back on the pitch see where it takes me and leave all the injuries behind me.
"It is a huge season for me. It's a one-year development contract so hopefully I can stay injury-free and keep playing away. Hopefully it might get me places down the line."