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Ian Madigan lays out Ireland ambition after delivering 'best kicking performance' of career in Ulster's win over Connacht



Ian Madigan was on form off the tee at the Sportsground.

Ian Madigan was on form off the tee at the Sportsground.

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ian Madigan was on form off the tee at the Sportsground.

Ian Madigan may be the wrong side of 30 now but if one were seeking an example of persistent desire, then a career-defining performance two days after Christmas amidst the howling chorus of Storm Bella might provide one.

It might yet - whisper it - involve him in more meaningful national discussions as 2020 belatedly pushes off and unfurls 2021 and the promise of new beginnings for everyone.

Seven from eight kicks on a fiendishly difficult Galwegian night for those teeing it up represented what to his mind was the "best kicking performance" of the 30-capper's varied career, a 22-point haul enabling Ulster to banish five years of away-day gloom and dispatch a woeful Connacht.

Twice a golden boot winner in this competition in his Leinster days, Madigan hasn't played for his country since being apportioned a disproportionate amount of blame for Ireland's calamitous exit from the 2015 World Cup.

While everyone was looking in the wrong place for a culprit, Madigan went looking in the right place to pursue a sense of himself as a player and, although his four years in Bordeaux and Bristol may not have meant much to outsiders, they meant a lot to him.

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His return to the Irish system oddly mirrors his departure; he remains a back-up to an overseas signing - albeit Billy Burns, unlike Jimmy Gopperth, does qualify for Ireland - and he doesn't get shunted around the back-line either.

Hence, even as he may covetously eye the growing queue of unconvincing out-half candidates lined up behind his old (and ageing) friend Jonathan Sexton, the most obvious obstacle is right in front of his eyes.

The next fortnight of team selection might tell a tale, particularly if Madigan is trusted with the titanic top-of-the-table tussle against his old club in a fortnight.

"I knew that time was ticking, and I had to come back here if I wanted to play for Ireland again. It had to be sooner rather than later," says Madigan, who linked up with Ulster earlier this year after falling out of favour at Pat Lam's Bristol.

"Obviously there are challenges. Billy (Burns) is going well, he's a quality player. There are plenty of other good out-halves in Ireland.

"But when I get my opportunities, I just want to go out there and give it my best. I'm not going to shirk away from the goal, I want to play for Ireland.

"I'm working hard every day, If the call comes, great. But if it doesn't, at least I know I've been true to myself. I've worked really hard to do my best."

Irish Independent