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Who is Ian Madigan? All you need to know about Ulster Rugby's new fly-half



Ian Madigan is joining Ulster Rugby.

Ian Madigan is joining Ulster Rugby.

Getty Images

Ian Madigan is joining Ulster Rugby.

Ulster Rugby have signed fly-half Ian Madigan for the 20/21 season.

While little is known about when that campaign will actually begin, in rugby as in every sport, the northern province are pushing forward with finalising their squad.

Madigan's signature follows hot on the heels of Jack McGrath's new deal. So what do we know about the incoming arrival?

Who is Ian Madigan?

Age: 30 (turning 31 next Saturday - Happy Birthday for then Ian!)

Position: Fly-half but can also be utilised at inside centre

Hometown: Dublin

School: Blackrock College

But he didn't win the Schools' Cup? Madigan was a losing finalist in 2005, stepping up to play in the showpiece decider aged just 15. He also played in the 2007 campaign but, due to a burst appendix, didn't feature for the Leinster title-winning team of 2006.

Club career: Madigan made his Leinster debut in 2009 and went on to score over 800 points in less than 150 games for his native province. He won two European titles, two Pro12 championships and a Challenge Cup. In individuals accolades, he picked up the 2013 and 2015 Pro12 Golden Boot. None too shabby.

International honours: After injury to Johnny Sexton, who he played understudy to at both provincial and international level, Madigan was handed the chance to make his Ireland debut at the 2013 Six Nations. He went on to play in all five matches at the 2015 World Cup, notably guiding Ireland to victory over France in the final pool match after replacing Sexton just 26 minutes in. He started the ill-fated quarter-final but Argentina, of course, ran out comfortable winners.

Moving abroad: Ultimately, Madigan called time on his Leinster and Ireland careers when he departed for Bordeaux, and a reported €500,000 deal, in the summer of 2016. While David Nucifora, IRFU performance director, insisted the move didn't necessarily mean an end to Madigan's international involvement, he is still get to add to the 30 caps he earned whilst at Leinster.

Bordeaux blues: The move, financial matters aside, didn't necessarily turn out as planned. He had to play second fiddle to Simon Hickey and ended up signing a deal to join Bristol in March 2017.

Initially brilliant Bristol: This time, the transfer worked a treat, initially at least. Fast forward a year and Madigan was a Championship winner and named top point-scorer as he helped the Bears earn promotion to the Aviva Premiership.

Sent to the sidelines: However, as time has gone on, Madigan's game-time has become more and more limited. He started the 18/19 season as Bristol's first choice but was eventually overtaken by Callum Sheedy. This term, things have only got worse with 18-year-old Ioan Lloyd taking his place as back-up.

Clutch score: Even in the midst of his waning prevalence at Bristol, Madigan still delivered one of the moments of last season when he struck a last gasp penalty to earn a 23-21 victory over Saracens and go a long way to sealing the Bears' survival.


Hankering for home: It's in the backdrop of those issues that Madigan is expected to finally get his move back to Ireland. He's had the desire for some time, having spoken about being 'open' to a move to any of the provinces before ultimately joining Bristol in 2017.

Ireland return? You'd guess Madigan is hoping, even aged 30, that he can secure an unlikely return to the international fold if he's able to switch it on for Ulster. Last year, even with Joe Schmidt and the IRFU's unofficial policy of not picking players outside the provinces, he was still hanging onto the possibility of a World Cup call. "It's still one of my goals, it's something that drives me on when I'm training," he said.

Hobbies: Madigan is a keen golfer and plays off a single figure handicap.

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Happy Gilmore! 🏌

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Overcoming set-backs: Few, if any, careers get by without a proverbial kick to the nether regions. Madigan has had his fair share. The first, and arguably the most cruel, came in his school days. It was in his final year of 2007 - and remember that burst appendix cost him a part in Blackrock's 2006 success. It was the quarter-final replay and his side were heavy favourites against Kilkenny College. They were losing 14-13 but were handed a get-out clause - a penalty inside the 22 with the last kick. Step up Ian Madigan.

Somehow, he pulled his effort off target and Blackrock lost - the biggest Leinster schools' upset in recent times.

“It did cross my mind that maybe rugby wasn’t for me," he said. "But I had great people around me like my dad and brother. They just picked me back up.”

Then in 2015, more added-time heartache, this time in the Champions Cup semi-final. It was Madigan's pass that was intercepted by Bryan Habana as Toulon put the icing on a 25-15 success over Leinster with a converted try.

Again it was a listening hear that helped, this time Armagh's All-Ireland winner and psychologist Enda McNulty.

“I met with him two or three times after the Toulon game," Madigan explained. "Reset the barometer. Reset new goals. He just convinced me that nothing was broken. That I’m still a good player. Still a good professional. Just really set me small goals to shoot at. Get me back into a routine.”

It's clear that the recent years of his career have had their fair share of disappointments, now Madigan will hope to consign those to the history books at Kingspan Stadium.

Determined graft yields ultimate results: As with many (most, all?) top level sportspeople, Madigan's career at the top is the result of years of fixed intent and unseen work.

“I remember going in every morning to school and practising my goal kicking. That was from twelve years of age," he has explained. "My dad used to drive into work early so I had the option of going in with him or getting the bus and having to walk down Booterstown Avenue. I always went in with him.

"Really from that age I did say to myself: ‘I am going to give this every bit of energy I have to make it as a professional’. That is the truth. I did have the goal of making it as a professional. Even when I was 12.”

Belfast Telegraph