Mad Men

Funny. Even funnier in conjunction with this:Zou bisou bisou. Mwah!

The Mole is a fan of Mad Men, AMC’s breakthrough show that chronicles the goings on at a Madison Avenue advertising agency during the golden age of American capitalism. The main protagonist is Don Draper. Women want him and men want to be him. While the show revolves around Draper’s character, the Mole’s favourite is Roger Sterling; insouciant, charming, funny and often drunk. How can you not like the guy?!

While Draper’s character is put together, Sterling’s is natural. His Dad started the business and he returned from WW2 and stepped right in, doing whatever it is that he does. If there’s a natural in Irish rugby right now, it’s Ian Madigan. The Mole has been keeping an eye on him for the last two seasons, interested by his talent and his development.

The first thing that catches the eye about Madigan’s game is his passing. It’s excellent. In his early games for Leinster, Madigan would effortlessly throw passes into the wide channels off either hand. They’d catch his runners in stride and you knew that you were watching a special talent. Then he’d do it again. And again. Soon the entire defence were running out to cream the second centre, knowing that he was going to receive a beautifully weighted pass any second now. You longed for Madigan to play a switch, just to vary things up, rather than throw perfectly weighted skip passes every time.

Returning to Mad Men, television shows use story arcs to move a character or situation from one state to another. The most recent example of this narrative structure in Irish rugby? Jonathon Sexton and Ronan O’Gara’s two-step has covered a lot of ground, most notably the shift in domestic power from Munster to Leinster and a passing of the baton between generations. For better or worse, that arc has been pretty much resolved and dramatic convention requires something to take its place.

With almost perfect timing, Madser entered stage right and is now at a point in his development where he demands a greater role. His maturing at Leinster coincides with Joe Schmidt’s tenure as head coach. Schmidt is arguably the best backs coach in the world and the ideal man to bring Madigan on. Madigan is a player that needs a top class coach. Blessed with a naturally high skill level, he doesn’t require that much technical one-on-one instruction. He does need to learn how to control a game, where to put the ball on the pitch, to understand that you don’t have to score off every phase but, by putting the ball into certain positions, you increase your chances of scoring off a subsequent phase. In other words, multi-dimensional stuff.

Last season, it looked like Madigan was learning, and learning fast. He started playing switches and using his blindside winger. He always plays flat to the line and is quite prepared to have a go himself. And if the defence is up hard and narrow? Check out the cross field kicks!

This variation is crucial in a flyhalf’s game. One of the Mole’s favourite players was Bernie Larkham, who earned the soubriquet because he was so laid back as to appear horizontal. Larkham prospered under the coaching of Rod McQueen and his acolyte Eddie Jones. Converted from full back by McQueen, he would bring his team through numerous phases before finding himself confronted by members of the opposition front five. At that point he’d step on the gas, show the ball and swerve outside the clutches of whichever knackered heavy was in front of him. Will Genia does the same. Check out how often Genia makes a break around the side of the ruck and how frequently he is running at a front row when he chooses that option.

Larkham knew that you didn’t have to score off each phase, attempt trick plays or throw 50-50 passes. You did have to give yourself options all the time, options that increased your chances of scoring and made it more difficult for the defence to stop you. Madigan has the skills to play that game so it’s now a question of choice rather than ability.

As far as choices and options go, there are a few more that confront and concern Madigan. Will the national coaching set up include him in their match day squads? Ronan O’Gara is a great sub to have but Madigan brings a different skill set to the table and has far more left in his career than O’Gara. If Madigan is officially designated in the top two outhalfs in the country, will he stay with Leinster or should he move to Ulster or Munster, each of whom will be crying out for a top class ten by the end of this season? Is Declan Kidney’s use of Sexton at first centre a case of far sighted succession planning, allowing a physically strong ball player the opportunity to learn the ropes outside an experienced campaigner and setting up a midfield that allows Madigan to take over the ten slot?

Finally, how far can Madigan go? Is he a talented support like Roger Sterling, capable of stealing scenes but with not enough substance to become a leading man? Or is he the real deal, as talented as Aaron Cruden, with the skills and temperament to earn a place on the Lions tour next summer? The Mole believes that he is the latter, the real deal, and expects this to be the season when the Mad Man takes centre stage.

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11 thoughts on “Mad Men

  1. Totally agree with you Moley, Larkham is one of my favourite players ever and Madigan has reminded of him a lot this past season. He looked good in the highlights from the Glaws game and is definitely poised to have an even better season than last! Let the slagging off of Kidney for not picking him begin in earnest!

  2. Agreed. Does this mean The Mole is parking the previously-mooted Madser-to-9 theory, though? I never really bought that myself; his passing is beyond superb, but in a slightly different way to what you look for from a scrum-half – the two have slightly different desiderata. And given that his kicking-game looks the weakest bow in his quiver, I’m not sure how suited he is to an environment where the 9 typically (box-) kicks even more than the 10.

    I can’t make up my mind regarding Sexy at 12; he certainly has the physicality and skillset for it, but equally parts of his skillset seem underutilised there.

    To quote Marlo Stanfield: “Sound like one of them *good* problems…”

    • It does indeed, although the Madser to 9 idea was more about a way to get two props on the bench at international level rather than a long term career move.

      As regards Madser’s kicking…it’s not as good as his handling but I always get the feeling he’s gagging to take the place kicks in any game he plays and Schmidt won’t let him because he wants to keep his mind on playing ten for the time being. That’s just me though. As for kicking out of hand, again, I believe Schmidt wants his team to keep the ball above everything else and doesn’t value a kicking outhalf in the same way that, say, Declan Kidney does. That’s another day’s work, however.

      Sexy at 12, I’m not convinced, particularly when he’s making way for Rodge but they linked well there in the second test v NZ. However, we’re not well served there at the moment although the answer may be coming down the tracks in a few years’ time…if he doesn’t end up in the backrow before that.

  3. Does ROG not have a central contract that guarantees him a certain amount of bench/game time with Ireland for at least another year or have I been fooled by a tabloid somewhere?

    As for Madigan kicking, he probably does want to take the place kicks but McFadden’s ratio is so high that its hard to justify anyone else taking them when he’s on the pitch surely?

    • With McFadden and Isa on the pitch, Madigan is still number three. They’re both consistent so it is hard to justify anyone else taking kicks.

      As far as ROG’s contract goes, and I’m open to correction here, but I don’t believe there’s a minimum game time clause in it. It’s probably a case of the IRFU spending the money and wanting to see some return for it. That, and/or Declan Kidney is innately conservative and his selections reflect that.

  4. I am very excited by the prospect of Ian Madigan. I believe he has the potential to be of the same ilk as Michalak/Spencer/Larkham (the later two were not noted for their kicking from the tee). He plays flat on the line and hits it at speed and with his magnificent pass he could be an outstanding playmaker. Needs to see some real game time in the HC this season and I think the proposition of him moving north or south this time next year is intriguing

  5. Great posts, gets one excited for the season. If he can show another level of improvement on last season’s performances we’ll know we have a real player on our hands. That being the case, it’s going to be getting close to Decision Time at the end of this season.We’ve been dismissive of wrong-headed claims that he’s ‘not getting enough gametime at Leinster’ up to now, but they’ll start to become relevant this season if he doesn’t get more significant Heineken Cup minutes. I suspect offers to make him first-choice 10 wouldn’t be exclusively from those adjacent to Leinster, but clubs further afield would have an interest too.

  6. people underestimate madigans kicking from hand, he has a massive boot and accurate too.
    ROG’s kick from hand isnt half what it used to be, begging the question what is his role in the irish set up

  7. Pingback: Sakoku | Digging Like a Demented Mole

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