Monday 11 December 2017

John Muldoon - We can create history and make a serious statement in Belfast tonight

Player Diary

Connacht captain John Muldoon and his team are applauded off the pitch by the Ulster team following the Guinness PRO12 Round 11 match between Ulster and Connacht at the Kingsman Stadium in Belfast. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Connacht captain John Muldoon and his team are applauded off the pitch by the Ulster team following the Guinness PRO12 Round 11 match between Ulster and Connacht at the Kingsman Stadium in Belfast. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

John Muldoon

I was up at the Challenge Cup launch during the week and it really brought it all home. It is disappointing we are not in the top competition in Europe this season but you only get rewarded for being consistent.

While we had some good performances and results last year - Wasps and Toulouse spring to mind - ultimately you have to be consistent and we didn't get into the position to be in the top competition again for 2017-'18.

We are in the Challenge Cup and that offers another avenue next year with the new format. It's a competition that we will look forward to doing well in.

We know how nice it was to actually win a competition not so long ago. On the back of Galway doing so well and winning an All-Ireland recently, it would be nice to get some silverware back to the Sportsground. But there are some strong teams like Toulouse, Sale and Stade Francais, just to name a few.

Back in the Guinness PRO14, it was another defeat against Scarlets last weekend but we know there were signs of massive improvement, and it all points to another big display at Kingspan Stadium against Ulster this evening.

In the Cardiff Blues game we just didn't perform in the first half and it cost us dearly. This time around we got a better performance over the 80 minutes, but made some mistakes and got punished for them.

Teams are being very ruthless and punishing us. It's a tough learning curve and it's difficult when you are not finishing out the games, but it was a step in the right direction.

Hopefully we will take another step forward against Ulster. We have got better and better with each game. We just have to get more results in the coming weeks. At least we are putting ourselves in the position to win games and get better outcomes.

Connacht have never had an issue with scoring tries, but some of our defence has been good, but yet not consistent enough. It's just a matter of getting it right and putting it all together.

If we keep getting better we will give ourselves a great chance. It's frustrating to lose these games but you come out with a few bonus points here and there and move on. I am sure a bit of luck will come our way in a few games too and that can be the difference sometimes.

Kingspan Stadium has always been a tough place to go to over the last few years and hasn't been a happy hunting ground for Connacht Rugby certainly. It's been frustrating but we have got close on a few occasions.

During Pat Lam's tenure we came away with a few losing bonus points and up to that we had never even come close.

I have been trying for a long time to win up there and it would be nice to come away with a victory at last.

But it's not easy, they will be disappointed with their result away to Zebre in Round 5. Saying all that we will be worrying about ourselves and not too much about Ulster. We have to look after our stuff and if we do our stuff right we won't be too far away.

It's time we got back to winning ways and there is no better place to do it than away to Ulster, where we can both create history, and make a statement against a provincial rival.

It would be great to get into Europe with a bit of confidence behind us too.

If we could get a win up there that would boost everything going forward and it would be massive before we start our Challenge Cup campaign.

Europe is a different challenge as well, and a different mindset is needed for it. It certainly is a different way of looking at it because you need to start well in that competition or you can fall off straight away.

If you do manage to start well and get a win against Oyonnax, it puts you in a good position for your home game the week after. And then if you get two wins on the bounce in that competition before you go back into the PRO14, it gives you a huge advantage going forward into the Christmas period.

It's a big, exciting couple of weeks ahead but we can't look past Ulster. They will be looking to get back on track after a shock result for them. But Zebre are no easy team to beat at home.

Our old adversary Michael Bradley seems to be working wonders over there and the Italians have put wins back to back in the PRO14 now. They are becoming a real force and it's good to see, for the sake of the league too.

But as they start to improve we need to get better to stay ahead of those sides and challenge for a play-off position later in the season because it has become really competitive in Conference A of the PRO14.

Both Cheetahs and Zebre are ahead of us now in the standings so we need to get things together, and a win in Ulster tonight would be the perfect way to start turning things around for the better.

Ulster are a fantastic side and they are up there with the best in Europe, considering all of the internationals they have. But we know we are more than capable of finally breaking the hoodoo up there.

It's been too long coming and we need to finally win in Belfast in the PRO14 - it could change everything for our season. We need a bit of luck to come our way but we know that we need to create some luck for ourselves too.

Irish Independent

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