Connacht duo in line for prizes
John Muldoon and Ronan Loughney have both been nominated for major awards at this year's Zurich Players' Player of the Year Awards, which take place next Wednesday.
Twelve months on for lifting the Guinness Pro12 title on behalf of the province for the first time, the Connacht captain has been nominated in the Supporters' Player of the Year category, while loosehead Loughney, who is set to depart Connacht at the end of the season following 12 years with the province, has been nominated for the Medal of Excellence award.
Muldoon is in the running for the supporters' award along with Leinster's Tadhg Furlong, Munster's Conor Murray and CJ Stander, former Connacht centre Robbie Henshaw, and Ulster duo Charles Piutau and Paddy Jackson.
There are no Connacht names in the running for the Players' Player of the Year award, the Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year Award or the Volkswagen Try of the Year, although Connacht supporters will have their fingers crossed that Loughney is awarded the prestigious Vodafone Medal for Excellence, which is given to the individual who demonstrates exceptional commitment to the game both on and off field.
Like the Player of the Year award, the Excellence Medal is voted on by the professional players, and Loughney goes head to head with Leinster's Jack McGrath and Ulster's Ruan Pienaar for the honour.
The Excellence Medal will be presented to a player who matches their playing and training with team support, studies, part-time work, mentoring, charity and community involvement. Last year's recipient was former Ireland and Leinster scrum-half Isaac Boss.