Thursday 19 July 2018

Muldoon urges patience as Connacht endure rocky start to season

Connacht captain John Muldoon. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Connacht captain John Muldoon. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The transitional period was always likely to be tricky and perhaps Kieran Keane is only now realising the full extent of the sizeable task he has on his hands.

Four defeats in their first five games has left Connacht already playing catch up, even at this early stage in the season and their task doesn't get any easier when they travel to Belfast on Friday night.

It could well be a long season for Connacht which given the recent increased expectations out west is far from ideal but their talismanic skipper has called for patience.

From almost being disbanded by the IRFU in 2003 to lifting the PRO12 trophy in 2016, John Muldoon has quite literally seen it all at Connacht.

There is no sense that panic buttons are being pressed just yet, particularly because Keane still looks like a shrewd appointment and in Nigel Carolan, the province have one of the most forward-thinking young, Irish coaches.

"Obviously you're going to struggle when you're doing something for four years in a certain way, it's going to take a little bit of time," Muldoon reasoned.

"Look, we've made mistakes unfortunately, and we've been punished hard for those mistakes. Sometimes you make mistakes and you get away with it."

An unwanted Challenge Cup campaign beckons but there is an acceptance amongst the squad that they only have themselves to blame for ending up back in Europe's secondary competition.

"I think ultimately you see some of the results we had last year, beating Wasps, beating Toulouse, beating a few of the Irish teams at home. Big results, but ultimately consistency throughout the year cost us," Muldoon conceded.

"We were able to throw in big performances, we were able to get big wins but were inconsistent in how we did it. We threw away results that unfortunately cost us the chance to be in the big competition.

"I stood here five or six years ago saying something similar, about consistency of performance. The difference is we're at a higher level in a better competition now with bigger and better players."

Keane was not in Dublin for the European launch earlier this week and on the back of his tetchy TV interview recently, there is already a suggestion that he is feeling the pressure.

Connacht face a tricky run of games in the coming month as Keane looks to steady the ship and the self-confessed "mad professor" should be afforded enough time to do so.

"It's funny you've got to strive to be better and you've got to get better all the time," Muldoon maintained.

"We won the PRO12 18 months ago playing a brand or rugby which at the time was maybe unorthodox for Connacht, or whatever, but the reality is that wouldn't win the competition in 12 months and it won't win us the competition this time.

"We've a new coaching team, a new way of doing things and a new outlook of how we do things. But we had to do that because it won't win us a competition, that way of playing. Rugby is evolving. It's getting harder.

"Teams figure out teams very quickly and you've got to try and be better every single game and every year.

"I don't want to sit here and make excuses but we've had a couple of games in absolutely horrific conditions as well which hasn't helped the situation.

"I just told someone that that Glasgow game should be chucked in the bin and never looked at again because it was one the worst days I've ever played in the Sportsground.

"It takes a while to change the mindset and the way you do things but ultimately we're trying to change how we're doing things and it's takes a little bit of time.

"Some pick it up quicker and others don't. I'm not the most intelligent man myself, and it takes a little bit of time," the Galway native added with a smile.

Irish Independent

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