Inside Track with John McIntyre
IT was set up for a big Connacht performance at the Sportsground last Saturday and the home team certainly rose to the occasion with their most swashbuckling display of a difficult campaign to give the province’s legendary servant John Muldoon the perfect send-off.
The supporters who packed the College Road venue came primarily to pay homage to the inspirational and durable Connacht captain, but they were also treated to some champagne rugby from the men in green which culminated in a record-breaking 47-10 victory over Leinster.
Sure, the visitors fielded a second-string outfit and their overall level of intent was questionable, but that doesn’t really diminish Connacht’s achievement or, more importantly, the timely rediscovery of the team’s verve and intensity in laying down a positive marker for next season.
Firstly, though, last Saturday was essentially about John Muldoon. Having soldiered with the province for the guts of 17 years, he was the archetypal local hero: brave, defiant, honest, passionate, loyal and proud. The Portumna native wore his heart on his sleeve and never flinched in the white heat of battle.
Muldoon’s leadership qualities were also beyond dispute. It would be over the top to suggest he carried Connacht to their mould-breaking PRO12 triumph two years ago, but he was the driving force for a magnificent campaign which culminated in a never-to-be-forgotten 20-10 final victory over Leinster at Murrayfield.
The 35-year old was also hugely respected by his opponents, while his popularity in Galway and Connacht transcended the rugby divide. Muldoon’s humbleness and modesty added to his legendary status which is reflected in an extraordinary 327 caps for the province, together with holding the record for the most number of appearances in the various guises of the current Pro14.
A warrior-like back-row who got better as his career evolved, Muldoon deserved more than his couple of caps with Ireland, but untimely injuries did him no favours on the international scene. It was with Connacht, however, that he forged the reputation which has made him one of the greatest sporting exponents to ever emerge with Galway.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.