Saturday 21 July 2018

I knew for a while that this season was going to be my last as a player

John Muldoon celebrates Connacht’s try against Oyonnax and, starting against Ospreys, he and his team-mates will hope to gain momentum ahead of the quarter-final. Picture: Sportsfile
John Muldoon celebrates Connacht’s try against Oyonnax and, starting against Ospreys, he and his team-mates will hope to gain momentum ahead of the quarter-final. Picture: Sportsfile

John Muldoon

The decision has been made for quite some time - I was always going to retire in 2017-'18.

Time catches up on everyone and it gets into your head. You start to think when is the right time to call it a day? I looked at it last year and decided to stay on but I knew coming into this season it would be my last.

Even when I was on my honeymoon and holidays this summer, I went into it knowing I was near the end. I spoke to Willie Ruane and Kieran Keane in early December and made them aware.

It's bittersweet. Connacht is all I have known for so long. I will miss the place dearly. From getting up in the morning, getting ready for training and packing my bag the night before. I won't have that, and it will feel weird not doing that from a playing capacity.

It's very melancholic but that's life and it catches up on everybody. I just want to finish on a high now. And the rugby world won't stop for me.

It was great to see the Six Nations back with a bang last weekend and of course Bundee Aki had such an instrumental role in the 80-plus minutes at Stade de France.

Elapsed I dropped him a text on Sunday and told him I thought he played very well. He said it was very slippy and tough to hold onto the ball. So to go through 42 phases of play when the 80 minutes had elapsed, and the players were so tired, it was absolutely outstanding.

Ireland would have been disappointed to be in that situation. But to come out on the right end of that result was brilliant. They will take a lot of confidence from that.

Johnny Sexton's drop-goal will live longest in the memory after that game. And I remember something similar when I played for Connacht against Scarlets a few years back.

The game was level at the time, at home in the Sportsground, and then we had something like 40-odd phases too but unfortunately we turned the ball over.

I don't think people can underestimate how controlled that move has to be. Sexton's cross-field kick to Keith Earls was outstanding too. It looked a bit flat and Ireland couldn't get over the gain-line to break down the defence.

To me that cross-field kick was the winning of the game. That made Ireland 20-odd metres that they weren't getting. That broke up the play a little bit too. It was a key moment in the phase play.

But you have to admire the forwards, their work-rate and desire to get up off the ground and keep the move going from their point of view too.

There is definitely a re-boot of confidence when the internationals come back into the squad. It's a very intense time and at such a high level that when the lads come back in they will bring that intensity back with them.

That will stand to us when the lads all come back in after the Six Nations, and if and when some of them are involved in the next few weeks.

Tonight it's all about Ospreys for us. They have been very, very unlucky this year. When the British & Irish Lions tour is on, you have 30-odd players away and you have your own internationals away on tour as well. Wales toured Australia in the summer and it puts a bit of a drain on the player resources.

Unfortunately, Ospreys had a lot of their guys away with both tours and then they had a lot of players injured coming back. I know Steve Tandy well, he is a lovely guy and was unlucky with how things transpired after that.

Ospreys have had to blood a lot of young players. They were left without a lot of experience especially in their pack where, at one stage, they had four of their front-line props injured. That puts a lot of strain and demands on your squad.

But in the last couple of games they have got a lot of those players back. They have been very unlucky but that will turn for the better soon enough again.

Ospreys will be good this evening. They have Allen Clarke in there now. A lot of our players know him from when he coached the Ireland U-20s and he was also involved with Ulster.

A lot of similarities have started to show between the way Ospreys play now and how Ulster have traditionally played over the last couple of years.

We have watched a lot of footage on them and you can see similar lineout shapes, scrums, everything they have done over the last few years. He has bred that into the Ospreys set-up.

They have certainly improved massively since Allen came in and with a new coach at the helm, and coming back to Ireland, Allen will have them riled up. This game certainly won't be easy as some people might think.

But it's great to be back in action in the Guinness PRO14, we want to get back on track there, and start to build for our massive Challenge Cup quarter-final with Gloucester.

Irish Independent

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