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Ferg' deserves final farewell

Great servant of Leinster to hang up boots

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UNSUNG HERO: Fergus McFadden was able to play a number of roles for Leinster and Ireland. Pic: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile

UNSUNG HERO: Fergus McFadden was able to play a number of roles for Leinster and Ireland. Pic: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

UNSUNG HERO: Fergus McFadden was able to play a number of roles for Leinster and Ireland. Pic: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile

If we have already seen the last of Fergus McFadden on a professional rugby pitch, then the fact he has bowed out with the minimal of fuss is rather in keeping with his hugely successful, but often understated career.

Throughout his 13 years at the top, McFadden was never one to grab the headlines, yet his durability, flexibility and most importantly, reliability, meant that he played his role in many special days for both club and country.

His decision to retire a one-club man, rather than seek a final pay day overseas will further endear him to the Leinster faithful, who invariably appreciated him more than others.

McFadden will turn 34 next month and given he hasn't clocked up many miles this season, the temptation to play on for another year must have been strong.

However, with his contract due to expire at the end of season (whenever that may be), the Kildare native gets to call time on his career on his own terms, fit and healthy.

It would be cruel if he doesn't get the send-off he deserves in front of a packed RDS, but McFadden has been around long enough to know that fairytale endings in this game are few and far between.

Six years ago, he had a front-row seat for Brian O'Driscoll's farewell as he replaced the legendary centre for the final time at the Aviva Stadium during Ireland's Six Nations win over Italy.

Afterwards, McFadden took to Twitter to acknowledge the moment in his own unique way by thanking supporters for the standing ovation he received when he came off the bench.

That kind of humour was a hallmark of McFadden's time in the dressing room, where he was always considered a hugely popular team-mate.

His selfless knack of making those around him look better made others want to have McFadden alongside them when it mattered most.

It was no coincidence that he played a key role in some of Leinster's biggest days, while as much as eyebrows were often raised when he was selected in Ireland squads, McFadden earned the trust on the back of some hugely consistent performances.

Reflecting on the 33-year old's career, it's tough to pinpoint one particular skill he really excelled at. Instead, it was his ability to do a lot of things very well that made him such a reliable player.

McFadden is every coach's dream in that you could ask him to prop up a scrum and not only would he happily agree, he would probably make a decent fist of it too.

And that's why Joe Schmidt regularly picked him over more flashy players, and while some supporters didn't agree, McFadden rarely let his team down.

His versatility arguably counted against him at different stages of his career, but spare a thought for a young centre who was trying to make his way at a time when two of the country's greatest midfielders, O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy, were running the show.

A product of Clongowes, McFadden came through the ranks at Cill Dara RFC before he broke into the Leinster Academy and made his debut in 2007.

Thirteen years later, as he exits stage left, McFadden's medal haul is the envy of most professionals in this country.

Three Heineken Cups, a Challenge Cup, four league titles and that's before we mention the two Six Nations medals - not too shabby at all.

McFadden will hope to get a chance to pull on the blue jersey one last time. Even if he doesn't, 184 appearances, including 444 points for his home province is the stuff of dreams.

It wasn't just tries he scored ewither. Quite often a 'break glass in case of emergency' goal-kicker, McFadden never shirked the extra responsibility of stepping up to the tee in pressure situations.

A real leader in terms of the standards he set, especially for younger players, McFadden was a ferocious tackler, and an outstanding breakdown operator, McFadden can hang up his boots with his head held high, safe in the knowledge that he leaves behind the kind of legacy others could only dream of creating in a club with a history as rich as Leinster's.