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Lifting Ulster players back up for European quarter-final has been a challenge, admits Madigan

 

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Ian Madigan admits emotions will be difficult to control

Ian Madigan admits emotions will be difficult to control

�INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ian Madigan admits emotions will be difficult to control

Ulster fly-half Ian Madigan has admitted this weekend's Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final away to Toulouse will have a strange feeling to it given where it falls in the calendar this season.

Had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic, Ulster would have played the game at a packed Le Stadium in April just after the Six Nations and before their Guinness PRO14 campaign had reached the latter stages.

But because of lockdown, the province are now facing their last-eight tie with the four-time European champions at the smaller Stade Ernest-Wallon in front of just 5,000 fans a week after losing the PRO14 final to Leinster at the Aviva Stadium.

Ulster are having to bounce back quickly after being beaten heavily by their rivals, something they wouldn't ordinarily have to do heading into a European quarter-final, which usually dominates the thoughts in the middle of the season.

It's something that isn't lost on Madigan and the playing squad, with the Ireland international conceding this week's game perhaps won't hold the same appeal as other quarter-final ties he's played in.

"When the quarter-final comes in the regular season, it's the biggest game of the season because that's the stage of the season you're at, and the gear-up for that game is phenomenal," Madigan told Newstalk's Off The Ball.

"I'm not saying it's not a huge game for the club now, but there's a strange feeling because last week was the biggest game of the season.

"It's just managing coming down off that, because you wouldn't usually have that the week before the quarter-final, and then getting guys back up and realising we're still in a great position in the Champions Cup to reach a semi-final and potentially go on and win it.

"It definitely has been a challenge for the leadership group and the coaches to lift everyone back up. It's tough any time you lose a final by 20 points."

Belfast Telegraph