FOND FAREWELL

John Mul­doon says good­bye to Con­nacht in style

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID KELLY

JOHN Mul­doon had done many things but never in his 15 years had he scored in an in­ter­provin­cial match. You can imag­ine the pre-match chat­ter. “Lads, if we’re hos­ing them, let’s make sure we give Mul a chance to score!” They couldn’t let him down; nor he, them.

Aided and abet­ted by a shock­ing show from the visi­tors, when Caolin Blade dot­ted down the seventh – yes, seventh – try with five min­utes left, up stepped Mul­doon to add the ex­tras.

Cian Healy did his best to rush him; af­ter 15 years and 326 games, ‘Mul’ had all the time in the world. The kick was nailed, the 47th point of a record in­ter­provin­cial win for his side, and a clean home sweep in the se­ries for the sea­son. He apol­o­gised if it felt he had em­bar­rassed Le­in­ster; he didn’t have to. “I’d like to thank every­one who came out. I’m priv­i­leged to have been part of this and I just wanted us to do us proud to­day. This will al­ways be my home,” he said.

A fond farewell, then and, mer­ci­fully for Mul­doon and all present, one that didn’t need to be de­liv­ered with any sense of meek em­bar­rass­ment. Le­in­ster owned the rights to that emo­tion, hot on the heels of their Tre­viso hum­bling, a record can­ing in Gal­way serv­ing to em­pha­sise the vast gap between their star side and its shadow; none ad­vanced their cause here.

Jordi Mur­phy was a late with­drawal af­ter feel­ing “tight­ness”; it may have been a knot in his stom­ach; cer­tainly the rest of his col­leagues were gripped by a vi­o­lent form of travel sick­ness.

In ev­ery way, though, Le­in­ster were a sideshow. The last thing Con­nacht wanted was a damp squib on a dry day to spoil the party; as if de­signed by script, they chose the first half to de­liver their most clin­i­cal dis­play of the cam­paign; mo­ments into the sec­ond half, they had al­ready se­cured the bonus point.

Le­in­ster had just two touches in the first three min­utes; first, when Tom Daly coughed up the kick-off and, sec­ond, when Joey Car­bery kicked off him­self af­ter the con­ces­sion of a try.

In between times, Con­nacht had ben­e­fited from Daly’s blun­der to re­tain the ball for mul­ti­ple phases, be­fore burst­ing through the mid­dle when Shane Delahunt picked up and gal­loped away from an ab­sent ruck pil­lar.

From the re­cy­cling close to the line, Con­nacht even­tu­ally spun the ball left to right, calmly through the hands — deftly by Tom Far­rell in his case — be­fore Niyi Ade­olokun sprinted though Daly’s de­spair­ing tackle.

Jack Carty’s con­ver­sion launched the party in style; Mul­doon’s lineout steal released even more ex­ul­ta­tion for the sell-out crowd bask­ing in the wind­less, sun-drenched atmosphere.

A lost lineout dur­ing a rare sor­tie into Le­in­ster ter­ri­tory seemed to undo the good work but, as James Lowe at­tempted to shift the ball in mid­field, his im­petu­ous pop pass was gob­bled up by the ad­vanc­ing Tier­nan O’Hal­lo­ran, who com­pleted the 40-me­tre run to the line un­mo­lested.

Sud­denly it was 14-3 af­ter 28 min­utes and Le­in­ster’s ap­par­ent dom­i­nance was mocked by the score­board.

Car­bery hoicked his restart di­rectly into touch as the crowd, re­gain­ing their spir­its, sensed blood, the red stuff cours­ing through Fin­lay Beal­ham as he screwed Jack McGrath in the sub­se­quent scrum­mage.

From the lineout pos­ses­sion on the 22, Le­in­ster’s tac­tic of stand­ing off rucks was pun­ished once more by the ever-alert Delahunt, who poached an­other ball and gam­bolled into va­cant green grass; Kieran Marmion of­fered sup­port and, de­spite the at­ten­tions of a trio of blue shirts, man­aged to get the ball down be­neath the posts, con­firmed by the TMO. Dreamy stuff, re­ally; 21-3 ahead with the ket­tle on the boil.

It couldn’t last, could it? Of course it could. And how. Less than two min­utes af­ter tea-time, Delahunt was cen­tral to his side’s bonus point try, the pick of the quar­tet so far. His finger­prints were all over it; from the steal deep in his own half, rip­ping the ball off Max Dee­gan, be­fore trail­ing Tom Far­rell’s mazy run, end­ing up on the right-wing and pop­ping a de­li­cious off-load out the back door to Ade­olokun, who did the rest. It was 26-3 now and the Le­in­ster shadow side were al­ready re­treat­ing for the gate.

The home side opened them a bit wider in the 50th minute, Carty’s won­der­fully dis­guised chip over the de­fence find­ing O’Hal­lo­ran who passed to Marmion for an­other run-in, un­touched. Ab­ject Le­in­ster were now 33-3 down as they emp­tied the bench, for all the world merely an ex­er­cise in deckchair ar­range­ment.

Con­nacht’s en­thu­si­asm got the bet­ter of them but who could blame them? Barry Daly scorched the earth down the right wing for a con­so­la­tion try but Con­nacht added two more from Bundee Aki and Caolin Blade. They didn’t have the last word, though. That was left to Mul­doon.

John Mul­doon leads Con­nacht out for the last time in Gal­way yes­ter­day, ac­com­pa­nied by his nieces Emma and Lily. Photo: Bren­dan Moran

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