Muldoon: I’m grateful to have got this long out of it

Peter Bracken, the former Munster, Connacht and Wasps prop, tells a great story about one of his first encounters playing alongside John Muldoon for Galwegians.

Muldoon: I’m grateful to have got this long out of it

They travelled to Limerick to take on the all-conquering Shannon side and late in the game at Thomond Park, which Galwegians surprisingly won, Muldoon smashed Mick Galwey and forced a penalty.

It was in the latter days of Galwey’s stellar career and young gun Muldoon rubbed salt in it by tapping the former Irish star on the chest and said ‘well done Gaillimh’, thereby sparking a row which led to a bit of a brawl.

“I said, ‘jaysus Mul, you’ll get us all killed’! But it was so typical of Mul, he just went full throttle for every challenge and tackle and always added a big extra. We got stuck into the row that day and we won that as well,” recalled Bracken.

“We laughed about it on the bus back to Galway but Mul didn’t think a bit about it. He was that way always and he never changed. You never got less than 100% from him. And you knew that, whether you were playing with him or against him.”

If Muldoon has encountered a young gun in recent times giving him lip the way he dished it out to Gaillimh, he has kept it to himself, but while he is 35 and today will chalk up his 327th appearance for Connacht, it’s as if the last 15 years have just flown by.

“It’s crept up on me in a way, even though I have known this day is coming for a long time. I can have no complaints, I got a great stretch out of it but of course I’ll miss it. How could it be any other way?

“The lads have been slagging me, telling me this is my last gym session or last recovery or meeting or whatever. But I suppose I have seen plenty of other lads head off into the sunset and it’s my turn now.

“But I have also seen many call time long before they should have to, having got injured, so I’m grateful to have got this long out of it and now I can start looking forward to the next thing,” said Muldoon.

The ‘next thing’ will be joining up with Pat Lam in Bristol next season as defence coach but first there will be a highly emotional send-off at the Sportsground today.

The match points, unfortunately, are of little significance to Connacht after a disappointing season, and one of his former teammates has warned that Leinster need to be careful and not get caught up in the emotion of the day.

Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty, himself a former Connacht captain who soldiered with Muldoon for five seasons, knows this could be a tricky one as they go in search of the point which will wrap up top spot in their conference.

“It is going to be awesome, a hugely emotional day because John Muldoon has been a legend for Connacht,” said Fogarty.

“It will be a hugely emotional day and that is something we need to deal with on the back of what was an emotional week for us last week.

“We need to make sure that emotionally we are in the right place and that we are focusing on doing a job. We can’t let that distract us. I hope it doesn’t.”

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has, as expected, made wholesale changes following his side’s superb 38-16 Champions Cup semi-final win over Scarlets at Aviva Stadium last weekend.

Amid much speculation about their futures this week and a possible switch to Ulster, both Ross Byrne and Joey Carbery will start, with the latter taking up the full back role in the Sportsground.

Former Connacht second row Mick Kearney begins for Leinster while loosehead Jack McGrath adds some valuable experience as he captains the side.

But all of the attention will be on the Connacht skipper Muldoon.

Head coach Kieran Keane has made just four alterations to Connacht’s starting 15 after their 35-22 defeat at Glasgow Warriors in the penultimate round.

Full back Tiernan O’Halloran and centre Tom Farrell returns to the backs, while Shane Delahunt starts at hooker with Muldoon coming in at No 8.

Despite tries from Finlay Bealham and Matt Healy Connacht sunk to a narrow 21-18 defeat against Leinster at the RDS on New Year’s Day.

But after 15 years of top level rugby with Connacht, the 35-year-old Portumna native could finally beat Ulster, Munster and Leinster at the Sportsground for the first in the one season today.

“I just want them to be their very best and celebrate John with a performance they can be proud of, win, lose or draw,” said Keane.

“You don’t often get a chance to take on a big dog like a Leinster behemoth and we are a bit miffed that we didn’t get it done in Dublin earlier in the season.

“Leinster are really playing well with a lot of confidence, right across the board. There’s no weakness in this current Leinster team. They are the front runners in Europe, for me.”

That may be so but, for one more day at least, the top dog at the greyhound track in Galway will be John Muldoon, calling the shots and dishing it out as usual.

CONNACHT:

T O’Halloran; N Adeolokun, T Farrell, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, S Delahunt, F Bealham; G Thornbury, Q Roux; E McKeon, J Butler, J Muldoon.

Replacements:

T McCartney, P McCabe, C Carey, U Dillane, E Masterson, C Blade, C Ronaldson, D Leader.

LEINSTER:

J Carbery; B Daly, T Daly, N Reid, J Lowe; R Byrne, N McCarthy; J McGrath, J Tracy, A Porter; R Molony, M Kearney; M Deegan, P Timmins, J Conan.

Replacements:

S Cronin, C Healy, M Bent, D Toner, J Murphy, J Gibson-Park, J Larmour, A Byrne.

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