A hero whose visage symbolises the west

Photo: Sportsfile

Photo: Sportsfile

There are some artists whose life falls onto the canvas, becomes part of it, whose angst is evident in the brushstrokes; whose empathy shapes the message of the painting. They become part of what they work on, and what they work on becomes the whole of them. They become one with each other until it is impossible to ever see them apart as separate entities. To rob one from the other is to divide it irrevocably.

Such is John Muldoon. A man who possesses a visage that symbolises Connacht, the province as well as the club. He is shaped from west of Ireland stock and rock. A body designed to terrorise opponents who dare cross him. He went forth in our name and took on challenges that made us wince. A protagonist in the drive that showed that anything is possible here in the west of Ireland.

He was the one you wanted in your corner when you went to battle; the image that all visiting teams had in their heads when they came west and saw that we had more than just the elements on our side in rain-swept Galway; we had a hero who was shaped by the elements. Muldoon looks like he was left out in all sorts of weather; hewn by a chisel of the gods into a structure that sent the fear of bejaysus into whatever foe came here to battle for points on a succession of sodden Friday nights.

And emboldened by this and the roar that comes from deep within him, he lifts those around him. There is nobody who dares leave five per cent behind them. Already skilled, they rise their games to match what their captain demands of them, and they became respected and revered because of this. And this reverberates into the stands and high into the sky from which huge cascades of soft rain falls from what seem just beneath the lights. And the soft growl of support rises into a howl of hope, creating a juxtaposition of intent and love and determination and power and making Connacht the force they are.

On that remarkable May day in 2016, when the team at Ireland West Airport had to gather up the stragglers from a charity run held on its runway to clear the way for an unexpected homecoming, Muldoon became a hero of all the west. When he clambered aboard the lorry on Mayo soil and lifted that trophy, he transcended county boundaries, and provincial boundaries.

He is a Connacht great, a sportsman who has given so much on the pitch; who has inspired and motivated. A hard man with a soft interior that sees him gladly give his time to the needy, to perform the charitable act. Muldoon knows that not everyone can be built like he is, or has had the good fortune that he has enjoyed in life and sport; yet he never says no to making those who are vulnerable feel at least equal if not better. So many charities and organisations around the west have enjoyed profile and fulfilment because he has given of his time to support them; to lay his hand on their shoulder and without saying, tell the world, Muldoon is behind ye. And if that gets an image in the paper or an interview on the radio for the benefit of that organisation, all the better.

And so this week, he named the time when the playing phase will all end, but we know not how it will conclude; maybe just maybe, with one firm hand on more silverware.

More than just a sportsman, it is now that he discovers the next stage of his vocation and we will continue to revere him, whatever path he travels.

We need to have heroes to hold ourselves up to; to show what can be achieved. Ancient societies had anthropomorphic gods: a huge pantheon expanding into centuries of dynastic drama; they exalted their warriors long after they came off the battlefield. We have fewer heroes these days, because modern society allows us to knock them down as quickly as we build them up. But people like John Muldoon don’t come along every day.

And so from the hearts of all whose blood ran cold each time he went out there for us, we thank John Muldoon for shouldering the hits that he did on our behalf, for our place.

We thank Lorna his wife, and the rest of his family for sharing him with us and allowing us to have a part of him; to avail of his generosity for so many causes. We are so glad that he is one of us. We hope that he goes on to have a fulfilling professional and personal life in the knowledge that he will always be a Galway great.

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