Connacht aim to send John Muldoon out on high

John Muldoon looks set to remain involved in rugby and having built up considerable coaching experience during his playing career, Connacht supporters will be hoping that the province’s finest player will return in due course when he hangs up his boots in May.

Connacht aim to send John Muldoon out on high

A trip to Bilbao for the European Challenge Cup in May would be a fitting way to cap Muldoon’s wonderful career with his native province and coach Kieran Keane and his men will be keen to achieve that for a player who embodies all that Connacht stands for.

Few could have envisaged when he came off the bench on 11 October 2003, to replace Paul Neville in a 42-19 win over The Borders at the Sportsground, that the Portumna native would go on to become the province’s most capped player, a performer who has made more appearances in the Celtic League — currently the PRO14 — than any other player.

Muldoon has chalked up 319 competitive games for Connacht — 247 in the league, 72 in Europe, scoring 23 tries in total — and is determined to finish on a high at the Sportsground.

“I am determined to finish my career on a high and for the remainder of the season I will be doing everything in my power to bring further success to Connacht.

“The Connacht supporters have also been incredible throughout my career and have made the Sportsground a fortress where I have always been immensely proud to play and represent this fantastic province,” he said.

A native of Gortanumera, a small townland outside Portumna which has also produced hurling All-Stars Joe and Ollie Canning and Damien Hayes, Muldoon was introduced to rugby by teacher Daithí Frawley in Portumna Community School.

He furthered his career with Nenagh Ormond and then joined Galwegians before making the breakthrough at underage level for Connacht.

He was 20 when he made his senior competitive debut for Connacht in 2003 against Borders, and made his first start three weeks later in a 33-22 away win over Ospreys in a game played at St Helen’s in Swansea. He made a total of four appearances that 2003-04 season, two starts and two off the bench, all in the league.

Muldoon quickly became a regular in the Connacht back row. An All-Ireland minor hurling medal winner in 2000, his abrasiveness and intelligent play became hallmarks of a wonderful career. The undoubted highlight came when he skippered Connacht to win the PRO12 final 20-10 against Leinster in Murrayfield in 2016.

Along the way he won three Irish caps, turned down offers to move elsewhere, with a particularly strong bid coming from Ulster, and was a mainstay of a Connacht team that often struggled to survive.

In the 12 seasons from the start of the 2004-05 to the PRO12 final in May 2016, Connacht played a total of 329 competitive games in the league and Europe. Muldoon played in 271 of them.

Michael Bradley, who gave him his first start and later made him captain for the first time, has said that Muldoon was the sort of player every coach wanted to deal with.

“He was superb to deal with, the whole way through. It wasn’t just what he brought to the squad, it was where he came from as well. It was important for players to come through from the area and make it and it’s hard to think of a better example than Mul, on and off the park.”

It’s hard to imagine Connacht starting a season without Muldoon on board but they will do that next summer without the 35-year old.

In the meantime, his teammates have a chance to ensure that Connacht’s finest servant goes out on a high.

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