Galway hurlers looking to the Connacht template

A Connacht rugby legend could help hold the key to Galway’s hopes of All-Ireland senior hurling championship glory.

John Muldoon is the most experienced player in the Guinness Pro12 with 13 seasons as a professional that has seen him play a record 275 games — notching 3,428 more league minutes than any other rugby player.

But it was in the yellow and blue of Portumna and the maroon of Galway that he first cut his sporting teeth.

Muldoon won an All- Ireland minor medal with Galway in 2000 before his focus turned exclusively to rugby.

But once a hurler, always a hurler and Muldoon was delighted to accept an offer to speak to Michéal Donoghue’s charges as they bid to end Galway’s long wait for September glory.

And Galway selector Francis Forde revealed how impactful Muldoon’s words were.

“John has been in with us. As you know he has a huge background in hurling and would have been on a county minor panel with some of the current Galway senior hurlers. He is an exceptional character.

“We had a chat with him one Sunday morning and he gave us a few insights into how the Connacht squad works.

“When it comes from a fella like John, someone that so many of the lads know and is so down to earth, it means a lot. It’s phenomenal what Connacht have managed to achieve. John is the kind of fella that you wish to have success — after so many years he has earned it.”

Looking in across the ditch at their successful neighbours, the Galway management now aim to copy their blueprint for success. Pat Lam has often spoken about the ‘culture’ Connacht has created and that appeals to Forde.

Last year’s All-Ireland finalists fell apart in the face of a huge Kilkenny challenge, so perhaps embracing some of Connacht’s strengths and traits might be the final piece in the jigsaw.

“The key thing for me looking at it from a management point of view is the humility that the players and management have shown,” Forde said.

“The way they have bought into it realising where they are coming from, just accepting where they are and having that hunger to improve.

“That’s the type of culture you want to create in these high-performance teams, it’s no different for ourselves.

“We want to create a culture where lads want to continually improve regardless of where they are, be they at the top, middle or bottom of the game.

“Each day you go out you want to improve individually and collectively. That’s what the Connacht lads have done every time they have gone out this year.

“There are huge learnings we can take from Connacht in terms of the way they approach the game. That culture is exactly what we want.”

All season long, Connacht have been regarded as underdogs in the majority of their big games, but things couldn’t be more different for the hurlers tomorrow.

After a mid-table finish in Division 1B, Offaly’s season hit a rough patch when they lost out to neighbours Westmeath in their first round robin game.

However, wins over Kerry and Carlow meant Eamonn Kelly’s side reached the knockout stages of the Leinster championship, where they registered an impressive 11-point win over Laois. Galway eased to victory over Westmeath in their first outing of the summer and Forde is keen to retain that winning buzz after a disappointing league campaign ended in relegation from the top flight.

He admitted: “You can’t beat a bit of confidence. Wins are wins and it doesn’t matter who you have beaten because you get such a positive vibe from winning matches.

“And that’s what we are looking for, we’d be hopeful that if we can go and perform it will be our turn to have a positive vibe and to take that into the next game. That’s all we’re focusing on.

“We are disappointed to be relegated. But you are going to be judged on your last championship game of 2016, whenever that turns out to be. That’s what we’ll all be judged on.”


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