Saturday 23 September 2017

'Sometimes I think, how can I be leaving this behind?' - Ian Madigan

Ian Madigan has no regrets about risk he is taking to move his career forward

Ian Madigan at yesterday’s launch of the inaugural Dublin 7s Festival.
Photo: James Crombie/INPHO
Ian Madigan at yesterday’s launch of the inaugural Dublin 7s Festival. Photo: James Crombie/INPHO
David Kelly

David Kelly

He never really got to say farewell. Perhaps because there still courses through Ian Madigan's veins a searing belief that it is only, after all, au revoir and not goodbye.

When Jonathan Sexton hauled down a maul with less than four minutes remaining of Ireland's final Six Nations game in the Aviva Stadium last weekend, earning him a binning, one would have expected Madigan to replace him, given he had done so on so many occasions in recent years.

Indeed, that he had done so with such aplomb and application against France in the World Cup - as his post-match tears demonstrated - made it seem an almost instinctive reaction.

And yet Joe Schmidt remained unmoved, choosing to deploy only two of his remaining substitutes in those final minutes - Eoin Reddan and Fergus McFadden - even though the game was up.

As it seems to be now for Madigan.

Now he is bound for shores beyond the control of the head coach; the latter's pointed reference to the 26-year-old's "unfortunate" move in subsequent media comments, referencing the opportunity now awaiting Paddy Jackson and others, appeared to sign his international death warrant.

Violently

The cynic would suggest that his lack of involvement last Saturday was a pointed demonstration of this fact, albeit the player himself violently resists any such intimation.

"Look, when you prepare all week to get yourself in the best possible physical condition for the week and know the game-plan as well as you can, it is disappointing to not get on," he concedes.

"That's the nature of it as a sub. Sometimes you get on early, sometimes you are used as a tactical substitution. Other times you come on as an injury replacement. I've been very lucky that for the majority of my career when I have been a sub for Joe, I have come off the bench.

"And similarly in Leinster, I have got on when I'm on the bench. I don't look at it as an individual thing, 'Why didn't I get on?'. I know Joe has trust in me and he does usually use me from the bench so I take comfort from that.

"I didn't have a sense of 'this is it'. When you're playing for Ireland, you have to treat it as game by game. Every time I put on the Ireland jersey, I'm thinking that this could be the last time I wear it.

"It's a very special thing I'm able to do and something I will never take for granted. So I just focused myself on what was happening during the week.

"There was enough to play for without stressing myself out thinking this could be the last time I play for Ireland."

Except he didn't and, although the IRFU's unwritten policy on exiles excepted obvious cases like Geordan Murphy and Sexton, it seems that Madigan's decision to leave Ireland will not gain him such a clearance.

While admitting that he wants to use his two-year stint with Bordeaux to finally establish his credentials as a regular starting No 10, in order to return to Ireland with stronger international claims, he doesn't accept that imminent exile can be assumed.

"I'm very much focused on the now," he says, even though everything he now does must clearly be predicated on the future.

"Playing well for Leinster and doing the best I can. If that can get me selected for South Africa, brilliant, I will make that work.

"And then off the back of that, it will be a new adventure for me in France and I will be trying to focus on that and trying to make that work as best as possible.

"If the Irish stuff happens off the back of that, then that will be another challenge for me. If not, I'll deal with it at the time. In professional sport, it's about dealing with the now. But if you don't have a bigger focus you are going to be left behind.

"Playing for Ireland is everything but I am not looking past the two-year deal in France that I have signed. There are no guarantees that you can start at any club. I'd only be doing myself and the club a disservice if I didn't give them my full commitment."

For now, his commitment remains with Leinster; he remains endearingly realistic about the two years he spent behind Jimmy Gopperth in the pecking order while Sexton had his own French leave.

"I was starting at 12 last year. Ultimately, to be starting for Leinster would have kept me happy as such. It's been tougher this year that I haven't been guaranteed starting now that Johnny is back. And ultimately that is why I am looking to move club."

Heart-strings

Even if last weekend did not tug his heart-strings, the personal reverberations of a coldly professional decision have left their mark.

"There are certain times when you are walking out the tunnel in the RDS. Friends and family are there and you are thinking to yourself, 'God, how can I be leaving this behind me?'

"Or sitting in the dressing-room during the week after training with your team-mates, your best friends beside you laughing your head off .

"Ultimately I just felt that to move my career forward, I had to move to another club. I want to try to be that starting out-half. So I just think of that and I put all the other stuff to the back of my mind and I just try to get on with it."

Non, il ne regrette rien.

Ian Madigan was speaking at the launch of the inaugural Dublin 7s Festival which takes place at Donnybrook Stadium on May 28 and will feature 12 elite international teams.

On 28 May Donnybrook Stadium will host the inaugural Dublin 7s Festival, where some of the biggest names in world rugby will descend on the capital including professional teams from England, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Japan, Germany and France. Tickets start at €15 for general admission with VIP and corporate hospitality packages are also available from www.dublin7sfestival.ie

Irish Independent

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