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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 26 January 2021

'They're 4-time champions, 3-time Heineken Cup winners. We must be 50/1?'

John Muldoon is stirring the pot nicely ahead of next weekend’s Pro12 final against Leinster.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

ATTENTION HAS ALREADY turned to next Saturday.

Connacht will take on Leinster in this year’s Pro12 final – an historic moment for the Westerners in what’s been a remarkable season.

But in the immediate aftermath of their thrilling 16-11 win over Glasgow in Galway, the focus shifted to the pending decider and, in particular, the familiar opposition.

Captain John Muldoon was in playful mood, stirring the pot nicely.

“They’re four-time champions and three time Heineken Cup winners. We must be 50/1, are we?” he wondered.

“The momentum is with them. No disrespect to Ulster but Leinster caught them on the hop early doors and they probably had a lighter game on Friday night than we had against Glasgow. They’ve an extra day to recover too.

They know how to win finals, they’ve got big-game players so definitely they have the advantage. It’d be remiss of me to say that Leinster aren’t going to be huge favourites. You saw Jamie Heaslip get man of the match (against Ulster), all of their big players came to the fore. If you were a betting man you’d be backing Leinster.”

When asked if Leo Cullen’s current crop is starting to resemble what went before, coach Pat Lam agreed, adding that because of the summer tour to South Africa on the horizon, all of their marquee players are hitting their stride at the perfect moment.

“That’s what makes it exciting”, he said.

Aly Muldowney with his daughter celebrates at the end of the match Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“We’ve always said that everyone’s been watching it – Johnny Sexton and Jamie Heaslip just took control (against Ulster). Jack McGrath, Devin Toner, all the big guys. They’re all peaking for Leinster but that’s because they’ve got a big tour to South Africa coming up and they want to get selected and all the stars come through.”

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Reaching the final is not a surprise to the Connacht squad. As the incredible campaign has gathered momentum, new objectives have been laid down.

Muldoon says the team aren’t about to rest on their laurels. The aim is to win the competition, not be satisfied with merely enjoying a big day out.

“It’s probably hard to believe but we have been talking about winning a final for a good few weeks and months now”, he said.

“We probably haven’t been saying that too loud. But we have been speaking about it, we reassessed our goals a good few months back and all roads were pointing at Edinburgh”.

Bundee Aki surrounded by fans after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Both coach and captain paid special tribute to the ferocious Connacht support that squeezed into the Sportsground for Saturday’s crucial victory with Lam previously referring to the venue as a ‘magical place’.

The only reason we play well at the Sportsground is the supporters – that’s why, that’s what gets us through. Go look [when it’s empty], it’s average and then as soon as the people fill in the boys feed off it. They lift us, we lift them, it’s just great. It’s not the Sportsground, it’s the people. It’s like any place, it’s not the west of Ireland, it’s the people of the west of Ireland that make the difference and that’s what we’ve always talked about – it’s people not places.

Muldoon shared the sentiment.

“In the last few months, the crowd has been huge”, he said.

“It was euphoric at the end (against Glasgow). I was trying to get off the pitch. It was pretty mental. Everyone probably thinks I’m the most ignorant man in the world because I was running past people. It’s huge. It’s a little bit surreal at times, where we have come from and what we have done. We are in a final, which is superb, but we’ve got to win the shagging thing now. ”

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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