Connacht captain John Muldoon reaches career milestone
Backrower will make his 300th appearance for province against Leinster this weekend
John Muldoon was not sure he would reach the 300 mark. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
At 34 and in his 14th season, having made his debut off the bench against the Borders in 2003, Muldoon’s leadership and longevity have ensured his place in the record books.
“It’s remarkable what he has done,” says Connacht coach Pat Lam. “I don’t think too many people will be able to do this again. Obviously his leadership, we know the type of leader he is, and he looks after himself – to play in the position he does is not easy physically, and it’s a real credit to him.
“The biggest thing is the person, then comes the rugby player, and then the captain. It’s what the boys enjoy following and it’s what we all respect. It’s just a massive contribution and I’m also more pleased he’s continuing to play, playing at a high level, and I tell you now, he wouldn’t be playing if he wasn’t playing well.”
Muldoon, who is the only Connacht player to have reached this milestone, has been an ever-present figure for the province, having joined Michael Swift in the 200 club in 2013. Muldoon admits to having some doubts whether he would reach the 300 mark.
“To be honest I didn’t think I would make it at the start of the season. Twenty-five games is a lot to get in a season, when you see young fellow like Eoghan Masterson sitting beside me – that is why I didn’t think I’d make 25 [games] at my age.
“Two or three years ago I thought it was obtainable, then at the end of last season I didn’t care about it after I had that [Pro12] trophy. But it has been at the back of my mind for a while.”
Still, Saturday, says Muldoon, is just another game for himself and Connacht as they try to build on last weekend’s 19-22 win over Edinburgh, which ensured the province a Champions Cup playoff place.
“It’s a derby, Leinster coming to town, and I’ve played in a good few before and I will treat it the same as any other derby game at home. We have a lot to do to step up and try to beat them.
“It’s an opportunity for lads for the end-of-season [Ireland] tour, and the fact that we have a lot of players who would have grown up playing with and against their players adds a little spice to it. We all know there is rivalry, and it just adds that extra bit to it. You can see that in the scramble for tickets. It’s all sold out and even the fans know it is a big one.
“We know with a couple of results we could have been higher up and we are disappointed with the outcome of a couple of games, but there is still a lot to play for. We want to finish as high up as we can.”
Yet again Connacht have been hit by injuries to key personnel. Hooker Tom McCartney and wing Stacey Ili are both undergoing ankle surgery this week. It will see them sidelined for the remainder of the season, along with prop Ronan Loughney, who recently underwent surgery on his arm. Fellow prop JP Cooney is also doubtful with a minor shoulder injury.