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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Madigan is a true believer in the Blues

Kicking King could be key to crowning glory

Ian Madigan
Ian Madigan
Leinster stars training

OH to be blessed with the cold-headed clarity of a front-line goal-kicker.

Ian Madigan certainly has what it takes to make those pressure-point connections in front of 43,958 pairs of eyes, as he did for six-out-of-six on Saturday to guide Leinster through to the Champions Cup semi-final against Toulon.

It is the same level of clarity that makes Madigan a believer in the province at home and away.

"I have full belief that the team will be ready come Sunday week and that we'll beat Toulon," he said.

"The way our season has panned out, we effectively have knockout games all the way through now."

The PRO12 looms back into view at The Dragons this Sunday.

HUGE

"Realistically, if we lose a league game we're not going to make the Top-4. That's just the way it is now unless a huge amount of results go our way."

From there, the focus will move to the South of France and another date with destiny.

"There's no doubt Leinster are suited to knockout games. This is our fifth semi-final in seven years.

"We've won the PRO12 twice in-a-row, got to the final the three years previous to that. Knockout games bring out the best in us."

The Marseille venue, Stade Velodrome, boasts a capabity of 67,000 and Madigan will have to have his eye in for Leinster to hold any hope of unseating the holders.

"I think when you're playing in a knock-out game you know every point counts," he said.

"You just stick to the process whether you're behind in a game or you're taking a kick at the start of the match or the end of a match.

"It's still the same pressure on you."

Of course, there is no real way of simulating the atmosphere Madigan will face in Marseille out in UCD or down at The RDS.

But, you can learn to deal with pressure kicks by the daily action of repetition, session-by-session and taking that into match-by-match.

"Yeah, you can practice pressure kicks. There's a few different ways of doing that. You can visualise yourself in the situation when you're training.

"Another way is to have competition with other kickers by putting something small on the line.

"I think you'll find with professional sports people that we're all so naturally competitive that even if you're playing for something small as coffees or lunch the next morning you'll want to win just as badly as you'd want to win the quarter-final of the Champions Cup.

"When you're standing over your fourth kick and the other guys have kicked three from four and you've got three and are kicking your fourth to win it.

"Even though it's in front of an empty RDS you're still going to go back to the same process that you're hopefully going to use in a match to kick the ball between the posts."

There are those who turn away from the isolation of a goal-kicker. It can feel like the loneliest place in the world when it's not going well. And there are those who revel in the crowd-induced frenzy that comes as an invasion of the privacy between man and ball.

"I think you have to look forward to it. That has to be the mindset you have going into a game," said Madigan.

"If the ref gives you a penalty in the opponent's half, then the chances are you're going to miss that kick if you have a negative mindset.

"Whereas if you're hoping that the ref is going to give your team penalties and he gives you one, then you'll approach that kick with a much more positive mental attitude."

Whatever it is, Madigan's got it.

LEINSTER

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