Sunday 18 August 2019

Madigan knows next move will make or break career

Leinster's Ian Madigan in action during squad training at UCD
Leinster's Ian Madigan in action during squad training at UCD
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

The way Ian Madigan tackles a delicate question bodes well for the big decision that awaits him in the coming week.

The out-half settles himself on to a bench in a corner of Lifestyle Sports' Grafton St shop and knows what's coming.

Although he is speaking at a "We are many, we are Leinster" launch, he is asked in different ways about leaving his home province and each time he gives an undoubtedly straight answer.

There is no double-speak from the 26-year-old whose contract expires at the end of the season. He knows how important his next move is and is aware of the consequences of the decision he will make in the next few weeks.

Leinster will want to keep him, but they have invested in Johnny Sexton as their franchise player and opportunities will be limited if he stays. Harlequins and Bristol are keen to take him across the Irish Sea, but he knows there is a risk that it could cost him his Ireland career.

The third option is to switch province, with Munster the most likely destination, and that would be part of any discussion with IRFU performance director David Nucifora.

In 2013, he quickly signed along the dotted line with his home province after Sexton had signed for Racing, but this time there is more at stake.

"It's very different to three years ago," said Madigan. "Times do change. I'm only 26, I'm still looking to developing as a player and that's something that I'm always thinking, can I keep growing at Leinster?

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"Certainly, there's brilliant coaches there, we're still attracting the best players in the world with the likes of Johnny and Isa (Nacewa) coming back.

"That plays a huge part in it. . . you've got Joe Schmidt guaranteed to stay on as Irish coach (until 2017), we've had brilliant success in the last few years.


"It would be very hard to turn your back on. I'm very happy where I am, but when your contract is up you have to go through this process. Unfortunately it's become quite public.

"My last contract (didn't take) particularly long. Johnny had left, I was trying to get the starting No 10 shirt and it was a no-brainer for me to stay. Times have changed now, Johnny's come back on a long-term deal. It's a process you go through, if you find the right fit and it adds up, it can be done quickly."

Madigan finished the World Cup as the clear-cut second-choice out-half in the Ireland set-up, but he knows that he will fall down the pecking order if he is not playing games for his province.

The last two weeks won't have helped. Against Wasps, he was a late call-up at full-back, and he was kept on the bench for the entire 80 minutes as Leinster lost to Bath.

Moving away may not help either. Exceptional cases like Tommy Bowe and Sexton have been picked for Ireland when playing abroad, but the selection calls usually go in favour of the home-based player.

The IRFU solution may be an inter-provincuial switch.

"You'd be naïve to rule it out," he said. "The IRFU probably want to keep as many players in Ireland as possible. If you are within Ireland you are giving yourself the best possible chance to be picked for the national team . . . the further you move away, the further you're hampering your chances."

For the moment, Madigan's main focus is on finding a solution to Leinster's recent woes, but he knows that the decision looming over him could make or break his career.

Irish Independent

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