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Muldoon doesn’t see Connacht as poor relation

Guinness PRO12 Editor

2 Mar 2012

As a distant relative of a former New Zealand Prime Minister, John Muldoon may appear cut out for politics, but the Connacht captain has no interest in entertaining suggestions provincial preference ensures he and his teammates miss out on international honours.

Connacht have sampled Heineken Cup action this season, scalping English Premiership league leaders Harlequins on a night to remember at the Sportsground, but only prop Brett Wilkinson made it into Ireland’s 30-man Six Nations squad.

In the RaboDirect PRO12, Connacht have been formidable opposition – valiant but ultimately fallen heroes as Eric Elwood’s men have collected no less than six losing bonus points.

And even though last week’s impressive victory over Heineken Cup quarter-finalists Edinburgh was a first win in 12 matches, there have been stand-out performances from second row Mike McCarthy and flying backs Tiernan O’Halloran and Gavin Duffy to suggest the Ireland selectors should be heading west more often.

Muldoon, 29, has three caps to his name – the last of which coming in 2009 – but rather than bitterness, he accepts Ireland’s current back three, Sean O’Brien, Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip, would take some budging.

He does however believe that Connacht should no longer be seen as Ireland’s poorer relation.

“I think there are some very good players at Connacht and maybe in the past they haven’t been given the chance or given the exposure,” he said.

“But you can’t say that anymore. We had the exposure of the Heineken Cup and we relished it but we didn’t play as well as we wanted until that last game against Harlequins.

“So there can be no excuses. Maybe if we had been winning those matches and on a par with Munster, Leinster and Ulster [all through to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals] then there’d be a case to answer.

“But we have tasted the Heineken Cup and enjoyed it and we need to get back there.

“On a personal level I would of course love to get back into the international set-up but if you look at the back row at the moment, it’s no easy task.”

Connacht’s victory over Edinburgh saw Elwood’s men move up to tenth in the league but with 17 points separating them and their closest Irish rivals Ulster, in all likelihood they’d need one of the provinces to win the Heineken Cup if they’re to qualify again.

And Muldoon is the first to admit that despite a memorable European adventure, this season has not gone as planned.

“We wanted to build on our performances and our finish [ninth] last season this year but it hasn’t quite gone that way for us,” he said.

“We had a good start when the World Cup was on and internationals were away but that’s not what we’re looking for.

“We want to be playing well enough that we have the internationals as well.

“It’s not like we’ve really struggled this season, it’s just that we have just come up short too many times.

“We must have the most losing bonus points in the RaboDirect PRO12 league and it is very frustrating.

“But we can capitalise on internationals being away in these coming weeks and hopefully push up as far as we can.”