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Fergus McFadden isn't ready to ride off into the sunset just yet

 

By David Kelly

Perhaps age and experience may colour your view but, for all the excitement engendered by a clutch of seemingly nerveless young Irish stars this season, it has been just as rewarding to witness several so-called veterans defiantly immune to the sands of time.

Instead of withering with advancing years, some have wallowed.

Rob Kearney's demise (at 32!) was widely extrapolated by some and exaggerated by many more before Christmas when he was elbowed from Leinster's XV before emerging to play a starring role in Ireland's third Grand Slam success.

While he may be the poster boy for ageing gracefully - and gratefully - the positively youthful figure of Fergus McFadden (31) retains his fierce desire for his career to bask in the spotlight, not the twilight.

More than a year ago, social media unfurled its predictable measure of bile when Joe Schmidt selected him for his Six Nations squad and, even a few among the fourth estate were sceptical of the coach's decision.

For example, the first page of a Google search of his name produces an online sports website which screams, with capital-lettered self-justification, a searching question. "Surely It's Time To Start Considering Someone Other Than Fergus McFadden?"

"Sure I have ignored you for years..." said the Kildare man, who bridged a two-year Test gap when arriving to help close out the famous February win in Paris, forming an important link during that unforgettable 41-phase sequence prior to 'Le Drop'.

A fitful late cameo as Wales threatened to thunder to victory in Dublin did, however, underline just how perilous his position remains a little less than 18 months away from the World Cup, a stage which he might feel would be a fitting swansong for his international career.

"It would be an ambition for every player in Ireland to try and push to get on that plane," said McFadden, capped 34 times since his 2011 debut against Italy.

"It is a long way away. Last season I wasn't in the Six Nations squad. I had an injury-plagued season and came back for the last week, just in the training.

"This year, it was the opposite. I went in at the start and got a bit of game time. Of course I would have wanted more.

"I went in knowing I was down the pecking order and would have to train well and get a rub of the green, and I did. I was happy to add and be involved in a group that created history, so I take the positives."

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