Ian Madigan comments on Ireland Under-20s experience show next generation anything is possible
Ian Madigan can remember his time with Ireland Under-20s as if it were yesterday, as opposed to eight years ago.
31 Ireland Test caps, 147 Leinster appearances, two European Cup titles, two league wins and a move to France later and Madigan still smiles as he recalls his time with the Under 20's.
Madigan is in Dublin to help promote the Electric Ireland Six Nations Home Games fixtures at Donnybrook, starting with Friday's game against France in Donnybrook [8pm kick-off]. His Under 20's team finished second on points difference to France in 2009 but many fine internationals emerged from that crop.
"The U20s is a really professional environment," he says. "You have your own enclosed set-up, full-time physio, masseuse and doctor.
"It is the first time you get the big bag of kit; the first time staying in a hotel. Then you have to get into the team, getting out through the passage way of the schools system to the Leinster, Connacht, Munster, Ulster U20s system, you come together. It was a very special time for me and one I have great memories from.
"The drop-goal against England is one of my great memories, it was a really special team. I think I could nearly go through it but Jack McGrath was in the front-row, Peter O’Mahony was captain, Conor Murray was there, Matt Healy, now a winger, was actually competing with Murray at scrum-half.
"It was a great group of guys that came through to play professional for their provinces and continue for Ireland, so I've very fond memories. It is a great system and it is great that Electric Ireland have come in to sponsor it, the move to the Donnybrook pitch is brilliant - it is a real fast surface and the games are being supported really well there. The game is a winner on that front."
Madigan missed out on the opening two games, and victories, for Nigel Carolan's U20s side but he will definitely catch this Friday's game against the French.
He knows two of the squad members - Gavin Mullin and Tommy O'Brien, who starts at outside centre - from a coaching stint he did while at Leinster.
"I coached Gavin Mullin, Brendan’s son at Junior Cup level and Tommy O’Brien, both are really talented players, quite similar guys, strong with fast feet, very good passers."
Other players to look out for this weekend include Rob Lyttle [Ulster] and Calvin Nash [Munster] who already have senior level experiences with their respective provinces.
IRELAND U20's TEAM
Backs: Rob Lyttle; Jordan Larmour, Tommy O'Brien, Ciaran Frawley, Calvin Nash (Captain); Bill Johnston, Johnny Stewart.
Forwards: Joey Conway, Tadgh McElroy, Charlie Connolly; Jack Regan, Oisin Dowling; Marcus Rea, Paul Boyle, Caelan Doris.
With France also sending a strong team, it should be a cracker.
— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) February 21, 2017
You can follow the games through the hashtag #FutureStars and by following @ElectricIreland
Electric Ireland proud sponsors of Ireland’s Under-20s Rugby Six Nations Championship Home Games. Support Irish rugby’s future stars by going to see them in action in the Under-20s Six Nations when Ireland take on France in Donnybrook Stadium on Friday 24th February. Kick off 8pm.