Sunday 18 March 2018

New deals hand Connacht boost

David Kelly and John Fallon

John Muldoon has committed his future to Connacht by signing a new two-year deal.

And there was a further good news to lift the gloom around Eric Elwood's side as they bid to prevent a record 10th defeat in a row on Saturday, with another former Irish international, Johnny O'Connor, also penning a new deal.

O'Connor (31) has signed a one- year contract as he aims to build on his 120 appearances for Connacht. He could mark his new deal with a return to action for this weekend's trip to Gloucester after being sidelined since early October.

Muldoon, who will be 29 at the end of this month, has played 167 games for Connacht and was their best player in the frustrating 14-10 loss to Gloucester at the weekend.

Connacht assistant coach Dan McFarland said that the new contracts for the two experienced players were a huge boost, especially at a time when confidence was low.

"It is very important to the club. Here are two Galwaymen committing to Connacht. I coached John Muldoon when he was 18 playing U-20 for Galwegians," he said.

"He has had a long spell out of the game through injury but has battled back. He is unwilling to accept low standards and he played out of his skin on Saturday.

"It's the same with Johnny. He has been out for a while now and the sooner we get him back, the better. He spoke well at our forwards meeting today and when he speaks, guys listen.

"We have a lot of young players and the knowledge that these guys are going to be here next year is a huge boost."

However, Connacht will travel across the Irish Sea with a warning from their hosts. "When the bubble bursts, it can be hard," said Gloucester winger James Simpson-Daniel.

Nine defeats on the spin have deflated even the most committed supporters and with only 5,000 turning up to see Saturday's defeat -- almost half the attendance of their opening encounter with Toulouse -- it isn't difficult to see where the graph is pointing.

"We have to look forward to the challenge of going to Kingsholm," said captain Gavin Duffy.

"It's another tough weekend and we have to have the right attitude. You play for pride every time you pull on the Connacht jersey. We're playing for pride but more importantly we're playing for the win."

There has been no deficit of pride but with every fall it will become increasingly difficult to summon up that collective resource.


Simpson-Daniel still harbours ambitions that his side can do something in the competition, particularly with Harlequins' home defeat to Toulouse.

"If we can win all our remaining matches we might have a chance," he said. "Let's get back to winning ways. Every game that comes we will target and next week is a big game as if we win that, we can revisit Europe down the line with a bit of momentum."

And to further twist the knife into Connacht, Simpson-Daniel, who won the last of his 10 England caps in 2007, believes his side should have won by more than just 14-10.

"In the return match we have to take our opportunities," he said. "In Galway there were a handful of realistic opportunities, and we need to take these chances. On top of that, discipline will be crucial. We can't give away soft penalties."

Irish Independent

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