Muldoon hits 300 mark and hopes to crack on next season
Connacht captain John Muldoon says he never thought in his wildest dreams that he would win 300 caps for his native province but he has no intention of stopping there and is determined to make a big impact under new head coach Kieran Keane next season.
Muldoon becomes the first Irish player to chalk up 300 appearances when he leads Connacht out against Guinness Pro12 leaders Leinster at the Sportsground on Saturday.
But the 34-year-old says that just playing one game for his team was a dream come true, and he was smitten by Connacht from the off.
"At 16 years of age when Bernard Jackman and a few other Connacht players came out to Portumna and took a training session, that's when I realised I could play professional rugby," said Muldoon. "When you are young, you dream that is what you want to become. If you work hard enough they can come true.
"At the start of this year I was 25 games short and I didn't think I would make it. I didn't think I would have played 25 games by now.
"Obviously it is something that I have targeted for quite a while. Something I said it would be nice to get. It is a nice accolade and it's a big day for my family."
silverware The Portumna man made his Pro12 debut for Connacht way back in the 2003-'04 season but had to wait until last season for his first piece of silverware, when they won the league with victory over Leinster in Edinburgh.
Now he reaches another major milestone in a repeat of that PRO12 decider this weekend.
"It was huge to win silverware, just as an organisation. Let's all be honest, when you are a kid and you are out the back and no matter what sport you are playing, golf was on the other day, and some of the lads were out the back there chipping balls.
"It's just the way it is, whatever sport you play and whatever is topical at the time, you dream of lifting trophies above your head. And when you see local people and you see a local team doing well, that makes you dream even more.
"From two or three years ago I thought it was attainable to reach 300 caps. But at the end of last season I didn't really care about it after I had that trophy."
But the reigning Pro12 champions won't be retaining their crown in 2017 and with hooker Tom McCartney (ankle), prop Ronan Loughney (arm) and wing Stacey Ili (ankle) ruled out for the rest of this term, it is a massive dent to Connacht's hopes of reaching next season's Champions Cup.
"Any injury is a huge blow, but it is the nature of our game and it is stuff that we are used to.
"A lot of guys go down," said Connacht coach Pat Lam.