Saturday 18 November 2017

Ian Madigan 'My Murrayfield miss made for a hellish two hours'

Ian Madigan is hoping to play alongside Johnny Sexton for Leinster next season
Ian Madigan is hoping to play alongside Johnny Sexton for Leinster next season
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Of Leinster's Ireland contingent, Ian Madigan was perhaps the one who needed to play as soon as possible after the Six Nations triumph in Scotland.

In his nine-minute cameo at Murrayfield, Madigan fears he will always be remembered for that missed penalty which might have cost Ireland the championship.

The reality of the situation was that Johnny Sexton had put two penalties wide before Madigan was introduced, but that was little consolation to the playmaker at the time as he faced an agonising wait to see whether his failure would come back to haunt him.

Last Friday's Pro12 game against Glasgow gave the 26-year-old the ideal platform to banish any lingering negative thoughts, and he did so in some style by kicking six from six.

Madigan is highly articulate in his self-analysis and isn't afraid to put that across - a trait that a lot of his fellow professionals could learn from.

As he explains what was going through his head when he lined up the penalty two weeks ago, you get a fascinating insight into the mindset of a kicker who has complete faith in his own ability and in his routine.

Expected

"It was from a spot that I definitely expected to kick it from," he concedes.

"I'm sure you've heard it before that Murrayfield has a funny kind of wind in it. I was standing behind the posts for the one that Johnny missed from about the 10-metre line - the ball drifted from left to right, so I thought the wind was blowing that way.

"Just before I came on I had a quick chat with (kicking and skills coach)Richie (Murphy) and we saw that the flags were blowing left to right.

"I usually hit a slight draw with my kicks so the ball goes from right to left so if I was kicking from the right I'd usually line my kick up just inside the right posts and let it drift into the centre.

"But because the wind was blowing left to right I decided to line it up, down the middle and expected the wind to keep it straight. I struck it well, went through my process, looked up and the wind didn't catch it.

"It made for a hellish two hours as a result of it. You're thinking, 'if England beat us in the points difference, I hope they do us by four points if they're going to do us so I'm not the complete fall guy!'."

Madigan's face at the full-time whistle spoke volumes for someone who knows that with a player of Sexton's calibre in front of him in the pecking order, any opportunities must be seized.

"When you come on as a sub, you're judged on a very small window," he says. "So you could come on and do two things very well and people say you've made a difference, or you could make two simple mistakes and people would say you're brutal.

"Whereas if you played a full 80 minutes and you made those two mistakes, they could be blended into a good performance and vice-versa with things that you do well."

Deep in the bowels of Murrayfield, Madigan was left to ponder what the consequences of his missed kick might have been, but Sexton was on hand to offer some words of encouragement.

Sexton will return to Leinster next season and will take over as first-choice out-half but Madigan is perfectly happily to continue at inside-centre if it means that the pair's partnership can flourish both in a blue and green jersey.

"I was pretty down and Johnny came up to me in the sheds and he just said, 'it's not down to one kick', and he was pretty disappointed with the two he missed.

"He goes, 'look, it's based over five games and everyone in the team could look at something that they could have done that could have added maybe three points or five points or prevented a try or a penalty, so you've got to look at the bigger picture'.

"I thought it was a very nice touch. He goes, 'Here look, if things don't go our way in this game this evening, we're in this together'.

"It calmed me down a bit but we were lucky. When England didn't get over we were in the after-match function and myself and Johnny had a big embrace. It was the most relieved I've ever been!

Preferred

"I've made it very clear that out-half is my preferred position but I think in sport the posts are always moving.

"With Johnny coming back I'm not going to be naive. He's one of the best players in the world. You're not going to have someone of his ability on the bench so I've got to look at where else I can fit into the team.

"This is without doubt my most enjoyable season so far and with Johnny coming back next year I'd ideally like to play at 12 alongside him. I feel if we're playing well at Leinster as a 10-12 partnership then we could go on to greater things with Ireland."

Any further developments with Sexton will be put on hold with this week's focus firmly on Bath and their talented out-half, George Ford.

"He's a smart guy. You can see he's thinking his way through games," Madigan says of the threat that the England star carries.

"He's a player I've watched quite a lot and he's patient. He'll wait until it's the right opportunity to pull the trigger and unleash the quality backs that he has outside him."

Madigan has had to show a similar degree of patience in terms of his career to date but there is an ever growing sense that it is now beginning to pay off.

Irish Independent

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