Sport Rugby

Sunday 17 February 2019

Muldoon up there with Connacht's best

John Muldoon will make his 327th appearance for Connacht today. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
John Muldoon will make his 327th appearance for Connacht today. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

I read a quote from Ulster Academy chief Willie Anderson recently where he described his role (most appropriately) as the development of 'warriors'. Well, if a certain John Muldoon could turn back the years to the early noughties and was based in Belfast instead of Connacht then Anderson would have the consummate warrior to mould in his own likeness.

My rugby-playing hero growing up was Shay Deering and his return in terms of caps for Ireland was a paltry eight. I would instantly put Muldoon in that bracket albeit with five fewer caps at the highest level.

To be fair, our back-row stocks have been fairly well loaded since the turn of the millennium.

Today at the Sportsground, his 'Theatre of Dreams', Muldoon (above) will make his 327th appearance for Connacht. He will be extremely uncomfortable in the role but today's game against Leinster sees the departing Connacht captain on centre stage.

Think of Muldoon and the word warrior comes most immediately to mind. In terms of rugby success, prior to 2016, Connacht had always been the Cinderella province. And yet the warriors they produced - perhaps for that very reason - roll off the tongue.

From Ray McLoughlin, through Ciarán Fitzgerald, to Mick Molloy, John O'Driscoll and in more recent times Eric Elwood. Great Ireland internationals for sure but first and foremost great Connacht men all.

Make no mistake, the great Muldoon is up there with the very best ever to wear Connacht green. He is the epitome of courage and humility combined. Tough as teak yet clean and honest to a fault but blessed with a rugby brain that has seen him line out in 24 of the 27 games for his beloved province thus far this season.

I can not think of a more appropriate ambassador for the game in the west irrespective of his immediate employment in Bristol, however long that might be for. As an aside, I just loved his banter with referees. It was always loaded with a respect that was instantly reciprocated by match officials. Job done with a moral there for all. John, the privilege and the pleasure has been ours.

Irish Independent

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