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Emotions run high in Connacht as John Muldoon makes final bow

By Nathaniel Cope
John Muldoon

Connacht will bid farewell to one of their all-time greats when John Muldoon plays his final game on Saturday, after a 17-year association with the club.

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It will be his 327th appearance for his native province, having made his debut in October 2003.

It’s been a long and often hard road for the Portumna man, one where team success seemed so far away.

Muldoon didn’t experience Heineken Cup rugby until the 2011/12 season, courtesy of Leinster winning the trophy the previous year. In fact the backrow only had four season’s playing in European rugby’s elite competition, their most successful campaign was in 2016/17 when they won four of their six pool matches, but the knockout stage always eluded Connacht. Muldoon made 52 appearances in Europe, just one behind Eric Elwood, with Michael Swift the top appearance-maker on 65.

Many players left the Sportsground in search of silverware and further Ireland caps – such as Mike McCarthy in 2013 to Leinster. But Muldoon stuck it out and was eventually rewarded with an upturn in fortunes for the western province following the appointment of Pat Lam.

The pinnacle came when Muldoon captained Connacht to a shock PRO12 title in 2016, beating Leinster 20-10 in the final, to claim the only major trophy in the provinces 133-year history.

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The 35-year-old packs down at number eight against the same opposition for his last match.

“It’s my final time to throw on the green jersey and I just want to do the lads justice before I bow out at the Sportsground. It has actually crept up on me and I have had mixed emotions this week when I have gone into training with the lads.” he said

“It’s been bittersweet getting ready for this game against Leinster. It has built up nicely towards a game against a phenomenal team and they were outstanding in their Champions Cup win over Scarlets again last weekend.”

Ahead of the game his club have made an emotional video tribute to the robust forward.

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Internationally things never truly took off for Muldoon, he made his debut against Canada in May 2009. The last of his three caps came in June 2010 when he started at blindside flanker against the All Blacks, only to be forced off before half-time because of injury.

John Muldoon tries to tackle Israel Dagg during June 2010 Test match against the All Blacks

He also appeared 11 times for the Ireland’s second string sides, Ireland ‘A’ and the Irish Wolfhounds. He featured once for the Barbarians, coming off the bench in a 27-24 win over Tonga at Thomand Park last November.

Now Muldoon will turn his hand to coaching, with a move to Bristol to become the defence coach at the Premiership club, linking up with Lam once again.

“John has played more games than anyone else in the PRO14 and he has an intelligent rugby brain. When we coached together in the Galway community and worked closely together on gameplan and leadership strategy whilst at Connacht, I could see he had the makings of an excellent coach.” Lam said after the long-rumoured appointment was confirmed.

But before that Muldoon would dearly like to sign off his playing career in style by getting one over on Leinster.

“It certainly won’t be easy to finish my career against them, but I am looking forward to getting stuck into my last game for my province.”

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