Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Ryan Byrne/INPHO John Muldoon lifted silverware last May when Connacht won the Pro12 title.
# Legend
After 291 games, Muldoon is 'honoured' to play on for Connacht under new regime
The long-serving flanker yesterday signed a new contract with the province and he said it was a no-brainer.

CONNACHT CAPTAIN JOHN Muldoon says he is ‘honoured’ to sign on for a 15th year with the province and that his experience will be crucial at the Sportsground next year after Pat Lam’s departure.

Yesterday Connacht announced that Muldoon had signed a new one-year contract extension at the Sportsground, but he says Lam’s decision to leave played no role in him remaining for a 15th season.

The 34-year-old Galway native has played 291 times between the league and Europe in 14 seasons for Connacht – nobody has made more Pro12 appearances.

Muldoon will surely move one step closer to 300 caps this weekend when they clash with Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon, where they’ll look to reach the Champions Cup knock-out stages for the first time.

It was announced in December that the current Connacht head coach was heading for Bristol next term. However, Muldoon is happy to add his nous in his 15th campaign with the province, and he doesn’t mind who is coaching him.

John Muldoon Ryan Byrne / INPHO Muldoon and Connacht are preparing for a huge trip to Toulouse this weekend. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“It doesn’t matter who is coaching. Obviously I am sure Willie Ruane and people who were looking at it from the outside in will think that (is important),” said Muldoon.

“It’s an honour to play on. I sat down with Pat and Willie around this time last year. We decided it would be a month by month thing and see how the body was holding up and more importantly, seeing how the form was holding up.

“I didn’t want to stay on unless I was going to contribute something. I suppose missing one game and starting 16 games is not a bad return for a young fella like me.

“I’m sure from my point of view, I’ll probably end up playing less and that’d be a bit unusual for me. In terms of committing to Connacht Rugby, that’s a no-brainer.

“I’ve been here a long time, I know how the place runs. I’m looking forward to a new challenge again with a new appointment and whatever else that brings.

“At times you do need a few old fellas to calm things down and to hit the nail on the head. We have a very in-experienced squad at times.

“We maybe lack a little bit of cuteness. The lads are getting better all the time. The younger fellas, the more they play and the more they get used to that they improve.”

Muldoon was flanked by backs coach Conor McPhillips as he announced his new deal – a spokesperson for the province said Lam’s absence was down to the head coach’s wish to spread media duties among the coaches.

And one week after Connacht forwards coach Jimmy Duffy ruled himself out of the running to take over from Lam, McPhillips has done likewise.

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John Muldoon Ryan Byrne / INPHO Muldoon and McPhillips in Galway yesterday. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“I’m happy doing what I’m doing here, I’m only young in my coaching career, so I’m happy coaching the backs,” said McPhillips.

“I’m with Connacht just focusing on this weekend, and the game.”

Connacht had 21 players injured or unavailable for their hammering of Zebre last weekend but they have received a massive boost concerning Ultan Dillane.

The Ireland international lock could be fit this weekend following an ankle injury, while fellow Ireland second row Quinn Roux has returned to full training.

Loosehead prop Denis Buckley picked up a foot injury against Zebre but could feature, while their out-half difficulties looked to have eased with Jack Carty on the comeback trail, along with Shane O’Leary.

Long-term absentee Eoghan Masterson is also likely to feature soon, with Jake Heenan, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Ronan Loughney and Peter Robb all back training ahead of Sunday’s trip to Toulouse.

“All the guys (in the injury-update), we are hoping to integrate them back into training this week,” said McPhillips.

“Training is important but they have stuff to tick off with physios and return to play. It’s a Sunday game so all these guys are potentials but we can’t make a call on that until later in the week.

“Ultan is hopefully going to train again today with the physios and be reintegrated into training. But again, it’s too early for us to say.”

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