In anticipation for the Rugby World Cup 2023, we decided to take this opportunity to get all the inside scoop and have an overdue catch up with Connacht Rugby legend, John Muldoon.
M - The last time we spoke, you had won the Pro 12, Pat Lam had just left and you were alluding to possible retirement, so what’s been happening since then?
J - It has been a rollercoaster few years. That was what 2016, we won the Pro 12, Pat decided to leave a year after, I retired a year after that, announced my retirement and then announced that I was leaving to follow Pat to Bristol. I retired on a Saturday, then my first son was born five days later and I moved to Bristol less than three weeks after that.
M - Are you back now coaching here?
J - Yes in Connacht. I started weeks ago (mid June) so it's still very new. I’m getting to know a lot of familiar faces, a lot of new things and a new stadium is about to be built. There’s been a lot of change since I’ve been away but still a lot of familiarity around the place.
M - Was it always the plan to go and learn from Pat and then come back?
J- Not necessarily Pat, but certainly it’s an area that I wanted to get into. I knew from quite young in my coaching career that I enjoyed the aspect of it. Not that I enjoyed challenging coaches but I liked to ask why we were doing stuff and I found certain coaches very opposed to giving answers, and certain coaches were very open and showing you, and it interested me to the point where at 25/26 I actually started coaching in Monivea which was nice, to cut your teeth in an environment where there wasn’t a load of pressure. Before Pat left he had given me the opportunity to help out in drills and that was feeding my enthusiasm more and more. Obviously the opportunity then came to go with Pat and it was something that I was keen to do. I was keen to break that umbilical cord that I had had for seventeen years with Connacht and just experience something completely different and I was fortunate to have five years there but ultimately there is no place like home, is there?
M - No, there’s not. Do you miss playing?
J - Not really no. I miss the dressing room. I miss that mix between the bravado/childish environment that goes on in the dressing room and I miss that relationship you have with the players. When new people come in and you don’t know them, within two or three months you can be best friends with them - I miss that. That’s very hard to replicate outside of that sporting environment and that team environment so yeah I do miss certain elements of it. I don’t particularly miss playing because I probably played for so long that I went out on my own terms and I was able to call it a day whereas unfortunately that is not the case for most players, either you unfortunately get injured or you run out of form or age catches up to you, I’m not saying it wasn’t catching up on me but I was able to pull the plug before it got pulled out from underneath me.
M - The World Cup in France is coming up in September. We're going to win it, aren’t we?
J - Oh Jesus. Well, this is the best opportunity we’ve ever had. There’s absolutely no doubt that we can win it. Whether we win it is a different story altogether. At the end of the day, it’s going to come down between Ireland, South Africa, France and New Zealand. We’ve South Africa in the group and we will need to be very good to beat them. I think there are even one or two teams you could add in on top of that who will think they have a really good chance, whereas in previous years I think you would have said it's between X and Y.
M - Any dark horses that you think could surprise us?
J - England and Australia will come out and be better than what they are showing at the moment. Especially England.
M - The Provisional squad have been out training at the moment. Will/Can the five Connacht lads make the final 33?
J - I think definitely Mack and Bundee will be on the flight unless injuries happen but there is no reason why the other two or three lads couldn’t go as well.
M - How much of an impact will they make?
J - Mack has been superb. Obviously Bundee doesn’t need any big ups from me. I think he does a really good job of what he does for Ireland and they are very clear of what they want from him and he produces that. I think Mack just has that X Factor, a lot of your readers will know Mack and many of them won’t. He’s extravagant and out there. He is definitely a one off and he just has that confidence and exuberance that you can’t teach and you can’t fake.
M - If you’re going out for a few pints to watch the World Cup, where are you drinking?
J - I’m happy enough to sit in a quiet enough bar anywhere that has a decent pint of Guinness, but I do like it down the Latin Quarter. If you are watching sport you can’t go wrong with The Front Door.
Words by Maxi Browne
Feature photo by Ciarán MacChoncarriage