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Why Madigan's hard work will pay off

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CARLOS Spencer was his hero. Then again, you would know it just to look at Ian Madigan out there, swashbuckling, spearing defenders with his change of direction and posting floated passes into outside channels – in short, doing his thing.

"Yeah, I loved his flair," said Madigan, with a smile across his face.

"I'd say Carlos probably wasn't the easiest person to play with because you mightn't know what he was going to do whether you were playing against him or with him."

Maybe, just maybe, there was a time when the same could be said for Madigan, as a maverick who would risk it all on one whip of his wrists or one boom of the ball. There was the injury-time penalty that halved France or the outrageous lash of a drop goal from 40 metres that thwarted England, both in the 2009 U20 Six Nations at Dubarry Park.

That was before professional rugby really got its hands on him. Slowly, surely, he has had to temper the temptation to do a 'Carlos', to throw caution to the wind and the ball into unsafe areas where it may be picked off by a vigilant defence.

Here is a man who loves the game in a way that out-halfs do.

They love to be in control, for everything to come down to one decision, one kick, one dart.

There used to be mere glimpses of a young man at work, one who had the talent and the work ethic to succeed. But, could he temper the temptation to be 'The Miracle Man'?

"As a kid growing up, I loved watching Carlos playing and going outside to practice his tricks after whatever game he was playing in," he said. "I was lucky growing up. I played everything, rugby, Gaelic football, tennis and golf. They gave me an appreciation for all types of sport and developed my spatial awareness.

"I would like to think I bring a bit of that into my rugby. A lot of it is calculated risk. It may appear riskier to someone sitting in the stand.

"I go away and I practice my passing as hard as I can. From that, I back my technique. There is an element of risk with certain passes."

Four years is a long time in this game. Madigan earned the trust of Joe Schmidt in that time. It is right there in the statistics. In the Ireland coach's time at Leinster, the 24-year-old made one start in his first season, seven in his second, 16 in his third and 25 in his fourth.

"To have the confidence of a coach is very important. It is something that works both ways. A coach has to have full confidence that his player can go out and run his game.

"The game has moved on a lot since Carlos played it. There are a lot more patterns. Would he get away with doing now what he did back then? Probably not".

There is the lure of the Heineken Cup on Saturday week.

Before that, there is the provincial playground that is Thomond Park.

Madigan has learned, in the shadow of Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O'Gara, that rivalry founded on Leinster-Munster derbies and that 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final at the Aviva Stadium.

"It is a brilliant fixture – two teams going out, giving absolutely everything to win. It is a great spectacle for Irish sport. There is no two ways about it. This is a special game."

He has made an impact at Thomond Park in his own right; from the start last year when he kicked 17 points in the 22-16 victory, to his impact off the bench the previous season in another precious win.

The journey from part-time, optional goal-kicker to full-time frontline – he shot six from six against Cardiff last Saturday – is not for the faint-hearted. It requires dedication.

"Initially, when I was trying to break into the Leinster side, there were very good kickers, like Fergus (McFadden), Isa (Nacewa) and Johnny (Sexton).

"With that, the coaches were happy to let me concentrate on getting better at running the game until I was ready to kick the goals.

"The interesting thing about it is, if the goal-kicking is going well, it spreads confidence in your game. The flip side of it is can affect your confidence when it isn't going well."

1Golden Irish Eggs brand ambassador and Leinster Rugby player Ian Madigan, speaking at the launch of the limited edition 12 pack of Golden Irish free range eggs, available from all leading retailers nationwide.

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