Hanrahan is a maverick in the mould of 'Mads'
Friday, August 26, 2011. The conversation went something like this.
"Who's that lad then?"
"Right, he looks good."
"Yeah, he's the guy who hit that drop goal for Ireland against England in the U20 Six Nations two years ago."
This was the short casual exchange shared between this hack and Northampton Saints long-serving forwards coach Dorian West at their pre-season match against Leinster.
Despite The Saints deserved reputation for pragmatic, forward-based rugby, West was most interested in the instinctive play of Madigan.
That night, Saints started Stephen Myler at fly-half with another off-the-cuff merchant Ryan Lamb held in reserve.
Myler has moved to another level in his development. Lamb has simply moved on.
Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder has always seen the need for a game-changer at Saints, an offer of something different to the skills of Myler.
JJ Hanrahan is the Munster version of Madigan. Not just for his tendency to improvise and overcome by instinct rather than design.
He is also playing as a back-up to Ian Keatley just as Madigan's career has evolved in behind Jonathan Sexton and, for the most part, Jimmy Gopperth for the last 18 months.
Would Ronan O'Gara have grown into the Ireland legendary status were his early career measured by what Munster needed there and then rather than what they would need for the next decade and more?
Hanrahan has simply arrived at a time when professionalism has grown into an industry driven by the immediacy of winning.
Coach Anthony Foley sees Ian Keatley as his best man right now. Not even the late offer of a bumped-up three-year contract could convince Hanrahan otherwise.
The Kerryman has taken a chance on moving to a club where he will have a pack of forwards not dissimilar to the Munster of old for the way they dominate and an arsenal of weapons outside, like George North, George Pisi and Ben Foden.
It could just be impatience, ambition or the need to earn on his part. They were three ingredients that featured heavily for O'Gara too.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009: Leinster U18 Schools v Munster U18 Schools, Donnybrook (back pitch).
"Who is he?" asked the hack.
"JJ Hanrahan," said Munster Team Manager David Quilter.
"Jesus, he has time on the ball, doesn't he?"
"He's one for the future, alright."
The future is now and Hanrahan knows that.
CARDIFF BLUES v LEINSTER, The Arms Park, Tomorrow (KO2.40, SS2)