John Muldoon: ‘I got emotional. I thought I was done and then Eric came in, and that set me off again’

There cannot have been many more popular trophy-lifting captains than Connacht’s John Muldoon but the veteran No 8 credited the combined effort of management and squad for taking the province to Guinness PRO12 glory.
John Muldoon: ‘I got emotional. I thought I was done and then Eric came in, and that set me off again’

Muldoon, 33, was a fitting recipient of the man of the match award after leading his team to victory over regular season table-toppers Leinster at Murrayfield.

Saturday’s final was his 275th appearance for Connacht and he was already well entrenched in the set-up when Pat Lam succeeded Eric Elwood as head coach in 2013.

“Obviously Pat has to take a lot of credit for changing everything but he didn’t come in on day one and go, ‘Right, chuck everything out.’ We built from three years ago,” Muldoon said.

“It’s a slow progression but it has to develop quite quickly. We didn’t just throw everything out and go ‘Right, let’s go from here. Let’s re-invent the wheel.’ It needs to be progressed through the season. It morphs itself and Pat sees stuff and (assistant coaches) Conor (McPhillips) and Andre (Bell), even the players, and it comes in cycles. Teams try to defend what we’re doing and then we come up with something else or there’s a little thing that we tweak, and I think that’s the best thing. We’re always moving forward.

“Pat had a saying last year, ‘The quickest way to improve is to learn quicker than everyone else.’ Or something along those lines. That’s the main thing, and it’s driven by Pat and the management, but the players are involved as well. It does take a lot of courage to buy into wholeheartedly.”

Muldoon also gave a nod to Lam’s predecessor, former team-mate Elwood, currently the province’s domestic rugby manager, for laying the foundation stones and the team spirit that saw the squad chip in to bring an additional four squad-mates to Edinburgh for the final as a 46-man group when a line was drawn at 42.

“The fact that we’re not willing to leave the four lads behind, and the four lads are inside in the dressing room and they deserve to be here as much as anybody else, and that shows the togetherness and what it means to everyone. To me, that sums up the group massively.

“I’m delighted for everybody inside. I got emotional a couple of times. I thought I was done and then Eric came in, and that set me off again then. I’ve said it for the last few weeks, there’s a lot of people who have put more into it than I have, and a lot of people are supporting Connacht rugby longer than me, and they’ll be proud tonight and they’ll enjoy this as much as we will.”

The victory was sweeter considering the darker times the province had been through and while Muldoon said he thought success would come he admitted he had at times contemplated quitting the club.

“You always believe. Of course, you do. You dream and you lift that trophy over your head every day out in the backyard.

“I’ve two brothers and we fought and we laughed and we did whatever and every day I might have been lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup, which is a bit different, but nothing changes and I’m just delighted. You always believe, but when you’re going through tough days it’s always harder to believe. I’ve walked in off the pitch a couple of times and said, ‘Right, that’s me done, I’m not staying here’.

“Unfortunately at times I felt we weren’t moving as quick as I wanted us to move.

“I felt I needed a place to move but it’s where you’re from, it’s who you are and I saw lots of friends and family and neighbours out there, a lot of them aren’t rugby people but I’m delighted to see them here.

“It’s huge. At times I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see this coming but ultimately deep down you always believe that it’s coming, and you always believe that you can be part of it and I’m just chuffed that I’m here.

“Ha! Chuffed.”

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