Pro14 final: Ulster must ‘manage energy’ against Leinster – fly-half Madigan

Ian Madigan celebrates with team-mates after winning the match against Edinburgh with the final kick of the game
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 12 September Kick-off: 19:35 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster medium wave and the BBC Sport website

Fly-half Ian Madigan has warned Ulster against letting their enthusiasm get the better of them in Saturday’s Pro14 final against Leinster in Dublin.

Madigan’s last-minute penalty earned his side a dramatic 22-19 win over Edinburgh in last week’s semi-final.

“Everyone is going to be giving it their absolute all but that can be counter-productive,” cautioned Madigan.

“You can be too excited, overrun plays and almost be tripping each other up. It’s just about managing that energy.

“Everyone wants to get their hands on the ball early on but you have to ease everyone into the game, whether it be a few easy carries, accurate rucking or good tackling, just getting their confidence up and building the encouragement and intensity,” the 31-year-old told BBC Radio Ulster’s Sportsound Extra Time programme.

Madigan’s decisive intervention after being introduced as a replacement for Billy Burns, 10 minutes from the end of Saturday’s thriller at Murrayfield, saw him land a fantastic conversion from the touchline to level the scores and then kick an 80th-minute match-winning penalty.

“It was a tough kick. I haven’t played a lot in the last while but I have a good idea of my range and I knew it was going to be close to right on my limit,” reflected the former Leinster number 10.

“Dan Soper is our kicking and skills coach and he puts us under pressure in training and tries to replicate what potentially could happen to us in games.

“He brought on the tee and we went through our usual process of practising. He is like a caddie to a golfer, assessing what the wind is doing, the angle that my kick would go and the best line to send the kick.

Ulster skills and kicking coach Dan Soper

“I lined it up and tried to go through my usual technique, stick to that, and it was good to me.

“A big part of it is what is going on in your head, filling your head with positive thoughts.

“I knew I got a good connection and when you see it go over you go from a tense situation to a moment of elation. To be able to share that moment with your team-mates is fantastic.”

‘Leinster rotation means guys can be fresh’

Having spent several years of his career with Leinster, Madigan is well placed to assess some of the strengths of Ulster’s opponents at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

“It has been a very impressive last few years, what Leinster have done,” said Madigan of the six-time champions.

“When I was there the ambition was to be two deep in every position but now it seems to be three deep in every position.

“They can train with real intensity every day and it allows the coaches to rotate the team in a way that other teams in Europe can’t do.

“That means the guys who come in can be fresh, which is a big advantage.

“The key for me in a final week is to get your work done early in the week in terms of video work and having your gameplan and how to execute it, then you feel you are well prepared for the game.”

‘Enjoyable few months’ with Ulster

Madigan won the last of his 30 international caps in 2016 before leaving Ireland for Bordeaux, then moving on to Bristol for three seasons and subsequently Ulster on a one-year contract.

“The last 18 months have been challenging for me. I haven’t played as much as I’d like but it has also presented opportunities to allow me to focus on other areas such as getting my mind right, and being able to iron out any injuries I had,” added the fly-half.

“It was important to get back to the physical peak I knew I needed to be at to compete and get into sides like Ulster.

“It has been a very enjoyable few months and I feel like I have settled in well.

“I knew a lot of the guys from playing against them or training with them and the coaches have been a breath of fresh air – you can sit down and talk with them about how I can add value. They have made me feel very welcome.

“I’m happy to have the opportunity to prove to Ulster what I can do and add to the squad and hopefully I can continue my time with them beyond this season.”

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