Monday 23 July 2018

Player Diary: We need to put disappointment behind us and restore some pride

Connacht captain John Muldoon, right, and Eoin McKeon leave the field following the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter-Final match between Connacht and Gloucester at the Sportsground in Galway. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Connacht captain John Muldoon, right, and Eoin McKeon leave the field following the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter-Final match between Connacht and Gloucester at the Sportsground in Galway. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

John Muldoon

We came up just short against Gloucester in the Challenge Cup last weekend. It's horrible to get knocked out of Europe in that fashion and we need to fight to make sure this season doesn't peter out.

There is still so much to play for. But in the direct aftermath of Saturday's reversal, it was hard to see that. We are very disappointed with the result and especially to lose a quarter-final in front of our home fans in the Sportsground.

With the way the other quarter-finals went, it looked like it was a very good opportunity for us to qualify automatically for next season's Champions Cup. That makes it all the more frustrating when you miss out on a chance like that.

We were in the game for a long time. We did some really good things but ultimately we fell short. From the forwards' point of view, we felt we could have attacked their lineout, and that's what we did. But they scored two tries off us winning the ball and just not getting the bounce of it. We were desperately unlucky in that sense.

The games against Gloucester have traditionally been high-scoring affairs, and unfortunately we have come out on the wrong side of it again.

I did an interview last week and it hadn't actually dawned on me until the interviewer said that this is your last home European game. Like everything you do realise it but you don't think about it. I was thinking more in the grander scheme of things, which is the team and the team doing well.

The disappointment after was more about the opportunity that we left behind us. Anybody could see that we could have got into the final four of the competition. But Gloucester deserved their win at the same time.

It was my last European home game and it's hard to think of it that way. But it wasn't a personal thing, I don't really look at it in-depth.

I am disappointed that I might only have one more home game to go in the Guinness PRO14 against Leinster. But it's more about the team than me.

I am not going to be playing for Connacht next season. I have announced my retirement quite a while ago. But there is still a job to do. I said that to the lads afterwards.

While it's disappointing to be out of Europe, we still have to respect the group of players and everyone at the province. We all have to pitch in. That will show the mentality and character of a person, to go out and produce. To play when the goal might not be as evident to other people. You have to be professional at the end of the day. You have to go out there and do a job.

There are a lot guys playing for international honours, contracts next year, guys who want to be on the team next year, and just want to finish the season well.

The lads were disappointed coming in on Monday morning but we are professionals and we have got to do our job in these last three games.

I'm sure management will be looking at it as well, and they might give one or two lads an opportunity who might not have seen major game-time this year. This is their chance to go out and show their worth.

Sometimes what we do is very good, and at times we let ourselves down by being inconsistent, or there may be some lapses in concentration. Our supporters and people who have watched us will know what we are trying to do, it's just about being that bit more consistent now.

There has to be a little eye to the future going forward into next season and beyond. I would imagine some lads will get some game-time over the next two or three weeks.

Build going forward, for what will be next season now, and go from there.

Opportunity

At the same time we still have an opportunity to get into the Champions Cup. We want to make sure that we give ourselves every chance.

It's up to the lads who are playing at the moment to try and get there.

We take each game as it comes. We were still getting over the Gloucester game at the start of the week but then it was straight onto Ospreys.

It's a short turnaround and we have a fair idea what they are about. They will have a lot of their international players back.

They have an Irish coach standing in over there who will know Connacht fairly well.

They will want to be playing Champions Cup rugby next year as well. They will be going hard to try and win and get Champions Cup for next season.

It's important that we go out and try and do the best we can. A win would still give us an opportunity to qualify for the Champions Cup.

A win at Liberty Stadium would also show a real team togetherness. It's something we pride ourselves on. If we went over there and did away with the disappointment of what happened this week and went out and got a result, it would show the calibre of player we have at our disposal.

It's a big game for Connacht Rugby and our season isn't over just yet.

Irish Independent

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