The list of the greatest Connacht second rows of the pro era is littered with club legends including multiple centurions.
Connacht's historical role as a provincial landing ground for many exiles players is also reflected. Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy and Ally Muldowney all came from the UK, Ultan Dillane arrived from Munster while Quinn Roux and Andrew Farley were southern hemisphere imports.
Andrew Browne was very much a hometown hero.
If i was to eliminate one player from the above mentioned candidates to form a shortlist of six I would probably, somewhat surprisingly, lose Quinn Roux. With 12 Ireland caps he is certainly amongst the best second rows on the list but there is some justification for his omission. Swift and McCarthy are certainties, as an ex captain and a hometown centurion Farley and Browne also deserve to be on any shortlist.
Dillane has a higher ceiling in terms of potential. Muldowney’s abilities at first receiver, and in the wider channels, were a crucial component of the expansive style under Pat Lam which delivered Connacht success for the province. In truth outside Swift and McCarthy there is nothing to separate the other five.
The hope for Connacht and Ireland fans is that Dillane will go on to have a career that surpasses Swift and McCarthy in terms of longevity. With that will come further honours and international recognition.
However, as of now that just isn’t the case. Muldowney is similarly hampered by a relatively brief tenure. So the choice comes down to four warhorses and with 269 and 160 caps respectively Michael Swift and Mike McCarthy cannot be bested on that front.
Candidates Michael Swift, Andrew Browne, Ultan Dillane, Andrew Farley, Ally Muldowney, Mike McCarthy.
RTÉ selection: Mike McCarthy, Michael Swift
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