Madigan fell out of favour in his final season at Bristol Bears, with head coach Pat Lam favouring Callum Sheedy and Ioan Llyod in front of the Dubliner. While he was an outstanding performer at Leinster, Madigan admitted his final season with Bristol Bears in the Gallagher Premiership was a difficult one.
Earlier this year he told the Owning It: The Anxiety Podcast: “You’re doing your best to train well on the Monday and Tuesday and the team might be picked on Tuesday and you’re literally reading into absolutely everything, from how the coach said hello to you to what other players are thinking about the team.”
Madigan signed for Ulster Rugby in March on a one year deal, and the 31-year-old will hoping his return to Irish provincial rugby (and international eligibility) could put him back in contention with Irish selectors. A recent name check by Andy Farrell has further boosted his confidence.
“It was a serious boost for Andy Farrell to give me a bit of a shout-out considering I haven’t played a whole lot in the last 12 months,” Madigan told Michael Corcoran on RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday Sport.
“For me personally, coming back and being able to play for one of the Irish provinces and playing for Ireland as one of my main goals has really focused me with my training and given me something to aim at.
Prior to leaving for Bordeaux in 2016, Madigan had been the go-to selection for Ireland’s number 23 jersey. Being adept at both centre and flyhalf made the former Blackrock College alumni a favourite of Joe Schmidt and he was at one point Jonny Sexton’s heir apparent. Now, four years on, he’s aiming to break back into the Ireland team, although first he faces the not inconsiderable task of cracking the Ulster 23, where Billy Burns has a firm grip of the 10 jersey.
“But I’m under no illusions that I’ve got to really prove myself and that starts here with Ulster and working my way into the 23.”
“If that means coming off the bench and playing well in games, being patient to then get a start and playing well when I do get a start, it kind of goes from there.”
“If you’re playing well for any of the Irish provinces, I think you deserve your opportunity to be in the mix for national selection. But there’s a lot of rugby to be played on my part for that to happen. But it’s something that really excites me. My number one goal is still to play for Ireland and that’s where I’m at.”
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