THERE were sleepless nights in Carton House for Fergus McFadden before he was confirmed in Ireland’s 30- man squad for the World Cup.
How does it feel? “It’s been a long road, but it’s been worth it,” he said. “I have had to work hard for the last eight weeks in training along with what was a successful season for me last year. It is a great honour.”
Initially, McFadden would have targeted Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy as the main road blocks, or proverbial immovable objects, to his progress in the professional game. They were never going to step aside and wave the young pretender through. Following a Most Valuable Player input into Ireland A’s Churchill Cup win in 2009, he was stalled by the men ahead of him. Oh sure, he was good to go on Magners League night when they weren’t around. But, the big days always seemed to belong to someone else. Then, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt had a bright idea for one big Friday night at the Aviva Stadium. Clermont-Auvergne’s giant right wing Napolioni Nalaga needed stopping in the Heineken Cup. McFadden was asked to fulfil a brief.
“At the time, Joe said the reason for putting me there was to mark a player that was quite big, powerful, robust, fast. It went well. “I suppose I would have to be thankful to Joe for spotting that side of my game that would suit playing on the wing as well.” However, Luke Fitzgerald’s return from injury meant the Suncroft man was sidelined to the bench for the quarter-final, semi-final and final. He had the better form; Fitzgerald the better credentials.
For the first time in his career, a coach, not Schmidt, but Declan Kidney, has seen it right to pick McFadden over Fitzgerald on merit: “Well, yeah, that is what it looks like,” McFadden said. He had lost out on the big day so many times last season. Did he really believe? “I was confident in my ability to get in,” he said. “But, there are so many good players, I was second guessing. There are always going to be six, seven names definitely on the plane. I certainly wasn’t one of them.” WAIT The 25-year-old three quarter chose to sit and wait rather than request personal time from Kidney. He wanted to let his training and limited game time be his job application. “Some lads were going to him and asking him where they stood. I didn’t because I was worried at what he would say,” McFadden said.
“I was just getting on with training and games to let my actions to the talking. “I was nervous. I was always unsure. There were three or four players they had to talk and debate about. I am sure I was one of those.” Not any longer.