Sport Connacht Rugby

Sunday 17 December 2017

Muldoon eager to make history

Connacht captain John Muldoon is fired up for tonight’s European showdown with Gloucester
Connacht captain John Muldoon is fired up for tonight’s European showdown with Gloucester

John Fallon

Connacht captain John Muldoon will lead his men into their seventh European quarter-final tonight (7.45) - and the Portumna native has played in all bar one of them.

Connacht have won three of their quarter-finals but have never progressed beyond the semi-final stage, and that's something Muldoon is determined to change this year.

Muldoon was still in school when Connacht first reached the quarter-finals of what is now the Challenge Cup, with a great run under Warren Gatland ending in a 40-27 defeat in Agen.

But Muldoon has been on duty in all the other European quarter-finals, starting with their first win at that juncture when they defeated Narbonne 43-28 over two legs in 2004.

That was the closest Connacht have ever come to reaching a final, with Harlequins edging them out 49-45 on aggregate in the two-legged semi-finals, with both sides winning their home fixtures.

Connacht were back in the semi-finals the following year, going down heavily to Sale Sharks, after scoring an impressive 45-29 win over two legs against Grenoble in the quarter-finals.

Connacht made it to the last eight for a third season in a row in 2006 but bowed out when Newcastle Falcons beat them 23-3 at Kingston Park.

Defeat was their lot again three years later when Northampton Saints won 42-13. Northampton followed in the footsteps of Harlequins in 2004 and Sale in 2005 and went on to lift the title after beating Connacht in the knockout stages.

The Westerners' last appearance at the quarter-final stage of the Challenge Cup came in 2010 when they defeated Bourgoin 23-20 before bowing out to a star-studded Toulon side 19-12.

Muldoon said that Kingsholm in Gloucester this evening is one of those grounds that players love.

"You want to play in grounds that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Down along 'the Shed' and the support they get is superb," he said.

"Look, we'd like to think that we have our own little mini-Shed here in Connacht and we're starting to grow that.

"You want to play in big stadiums and real intimidating places, and the more intimidating place it is, the better, and I suppose the more you hope you can ruin their day."

Irish Independent

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