1 December 2023

~4 minutes read

Record Holder Muldoon: “This league is getting better and better every year”

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Record Holder Muldoon: “This league is getting better and better every year”

There are few people better qualified to comment on the strides the BKT URC has made than John Muldoon.

After all, no-one has made more appearances in the competition than the Connacht legend who is now back at the Irish province as a coach.

In all, he played a record 254 games in the multi-nation league, in its varying guises, between 2003 and hanging up his boots in 2018. Now, after a five year spell coaching at Bristol Bears, he has returned to Galway to oversee Connacht’s lineout and maul, helping prepare the team for Saturday’s big derby against Leinster at the Sportsground.

So, what does he make of the new-look BKT URC and how the tournament has moved on over the years?

“I think bringing in the Italians was a huge step in the right direction in terms of what the competition wanted to be,” said the former back row forward.

“Obviously before that it was a real Celtic environment and Celtic feel to it.

“The Italians kind of opened up that and they have got better.

“Then, just before I left, the South African teams came in and that has opened up something completely different.

“Last weekend, we were in the heat and the altitude in Pretoria and I was struggling walking up the stairs, never mind some of the players on the pitch. It was phenomenal.

“There are certainly different challenges being in Edinburgh in two degrees and then going to 36 degrees and altitude. I tell you, it wakes your body up!

“But in terms of what the South Africans have brought, you just have to look at some of the players that were on the pitch over the weekend.

“From where we have come from to where we are now, they are two completely different structures and systems.

“This league is getting better and better every year.”

Lying second behind Muldoon on the all-time league appearance chart is Welsh international Josh Turnbull, who is now up to 236 from his long spells with the Scarlets and Cardiff Rugby – and still going strong.

“I had a few battles with Josh on the pitch back in the day,” said Muldoon.

“He has been a stalwart of Cardiff for a good few years.

“I didn’t realise he was that close! I hope he passes me and keeps on going. He is still looking young and still churning out the big displays.“I would love to see him pass me. It makes life an awful lot easier when you are not up there!”

Muldoon, who turns 41 this week, has also been talking about his transition into coaching.

“It’s been a huge learning curve for me in terms of the presentation style, getting my point across and all the detail,” he said.

“But I suppose being confident is the biggest thing and backing your ability.

“There will always be opinions in the room, there will always be certain ways to do it.

“You’ve got to have a way you want to do things and a style you want to implement on the team and so you’ve got to be confident in yourself and trust in your knowledge and your ability to deliver that.

“You will have highs and you will have lows and it’s about riding the wave because when things are going well you can’t get too cocky and likewise when things aren’t going your way you’ve got to believe you are on the right road and the right path.”

Having won four of their first five BKT URC matches, including a notable triumph away to the Hollywoodbets Sharks in Round 5, Connacht came back down to earth with a bump last Saturday as they were beaten 53-27 by the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

“We were disappointed because we definitely could have got something out of the game,” said Muldoon.

“We left a few opportunities out there and different facets of the game let us down at crucial times. We just made too many errors.

“We have got to make sure we remedy that very quickly because you don’t get away with that against the big teams.”

There’s another big team on the horizon now, with second-placed Leinster heading for Galway this weekend.

“They have been phenomenal with their consistency over the last number of years,” said Muldoon.

“They have got some fantastic players there, so have absolutely no doubt the quality they have.”

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