“He’s Big-Time, Isn’t He? Anybody Who Knows [Ian Madigan] Knows He’s Big Time”

Big time.

Ian Madigan gave Irish Rugby fans a timely reminder of what he’s capable of last night with an incredible cameo off the bench to send Ulster in the final of the Guinness PRO14.

With Ulster trailing by 7 points, the former Leinsterman was sent on to do a job – and boy did he do it. First, he slotted an incredible touchline conversion to tie the game before knocking over a 42-metre penalty to send the Ulster lads into pandemonium.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for Edinburgh but it was an important reminder that Ian Madigan is a big-time player and having him back on these shores is fantastic for Irish Rugby as a whole.

No one will ever forget that performance against France in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the incredible season that followed with Madigan scooping the PRO14 Golden Boot with an incredible 87% conversion rate.

Even as recently as March of last year, Madigan was slotting over 88th-minute winners for Bristol despite the fact that the club had already made it clear he was surplus to requirements going forward.

Perhaps his moves to France and England didn’t go exactly according to plan but let’s not forget – he’s still only 31. And his arrival couldn’t have come at a better time for Ireland who have relied far too heavily on Johnny Sexton in recent years.

“He’s big-time, isn’t he? Anybody who knows Mads knows he’s big time,” Ulster boss Dan McFarland said after the game.

“I’ve watched him kick goals at the end of games, I’ve watched him make great plays in crucial moments in games. He did a great job.

“It was just one of those things where we needed a bit of impact there, and that’s not taking anything away from Billy [Burns] because he looked pretty good in both games he’s played in, but having that kind of 10 who can come in and make an impact like that in big games is pretty important. We all know that.”

Ulster captain Burns, who made way for Madigan and is set to battle it out with him in the coming months for the 10 shirt at Ulster, said he wasn’t surprised after seeing his teammate in training.

“I see Mads hit those kicks week in, week out on the training park,” Burns told us.

“He has oozed class since he’s come to the club. He’s almost been a mentor to a lot of us. He has obviously played a lot of big games and I’m sure that’s not the first time he’s done that.

“There are definitely worse people to be stepping up to that kick and as soon as I saw Mads step up for it, I was pretty confident. It was a huge moment from him and credit to him, he deserved it.”

The big question now though is does McFarland stick with Burns next week for the final or does he go with the maverick in Ian Madigan? A tough call but not as tough as the opposition they will face.

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