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The Baa Baas were always a team I looked up to as a kid because they are such a fantastic rugby institution, so playing for or against them is a massive thing, and Thursday’s game was extra special because we got to face a lot of Leinster teammates like Jimmy Gopperth and Zane Kirchner. It was also fantastic to see some of the young Ireland boys getting a chance in the game and making a real impression.
Having said all that and how enjoyable it was to be a part of, it was disappointing that we couldn’t get the win in the end. When you are playing for Ireland under Joe Schmidt there are always expectations to be met – that is why we have been so successful over the last couple of years. We are creating a winning culture in our setup and we want to maintain that wherever possible.
For Leinster, the off-season is a time to reflect on the good and bad aspects of our year. It has been a long season, and one that I have really enjoyed. As a club we can look back very fondly on the Champions Cup campaign. We were very close to making it to the final at the expense of the eventual winners, and we played some good stuff throughout the competition.
But we also know we fell short in the league, not making the semi- finals is well below our standards and that is definitely something we will be looking to improve moving forwards. The Pro12 has to be taken as a whole. We lost some points early on and I think we thought we would be able to get them back, which unfortunately is not quite how it unfolded. It has just emphasised the importance of accumulating points early on, otherwise you put yourselves under massive pressure.
Obviously we had quite a few of our boys in the Ireland side and maybe we fell a little short during the Autumn Internationals and Six Nations as well. But it is a chance for the younger guys to step up and make it their own, and they have really impressed this year.
One of the reasons for Leinster’s success over recent years and becoming one of the top teams in Europe is the academy system. We’ve had a lot of great guys come through to make big impacts, and we’ve still got other players like Colm O’Shea who might not be massively well known at the minute but are on the fringes and are brimming with quality. They showed what they are capable of in the last game against Edinburgh, which I think was one of our performances of the season.
It was very disappointing as well to see Matt O’Connor leaving the club. The players as a whole felt a little bit like we had let him down – he is a great coach and a brilliant man manager so it was a shame to see him move on. At the same time, I’d say we are in safe hands with Leo Cullen at the moment. He has been at the club for 20 years altogether and he is a great guy to have around. He was a fantastic captain and he is a great coach, he will move the club forward in the coming weeks and then if it means bringing in another coach then it will happen – but we are in safe hands with Leo.
Ian Madigan is a Life Style Sports brand ambassador. Visit our Leinster Rugby store for the widest range of kit, shirts and accessories at Life Style Sports ,the club's official retail partner.