When it comes to selecting the greatest Connacht back row of the professional era a couple of names stand head and shoulders above the rest. With the possible exception of Eric Elwood, if one player typifies the province it's John Muldoon.
As such, his place at blindside flanker is assured. There have been other quality operators in the No 6 shirt out west, such as John O’Sullivan and lock-cum-blindsides Andrew Farley and Ally Muldowney but Muldoon stands alone.
With an incredible 327 Connacht appearances under his belt as well as the honour of being captain and Man of the Match in the 2016 Pro12 final victory, Muldoon is desperately unlucky to have only represented Ireland on three occasions, more a reflection of the incredible quality Ireland have been able to call on in the back row rather than the Portumna man’s abilities.
Equally, on the other flank Johnny O’Connor ticks many of the same boxes as Muldoon. Johnny 'Concrete arguably enjoyed his best form during his spell with Wasps but none the less his contribution for his home province was hugely significant.
Ray Ofisa, Colby Fainga'a and Jake Heenan all filled the jersey admirably and Fainga'a, in particular, had huge potential before his untimely departure was announced earlier this season.
In truth the No 8 Jersey isn’t quite as keenly contested.
My vote goes to George Naoupu who was a consistent source of go-forward ball during his time out west. It’s worth remembering Naoupu has well over 100 Connacht caps and was good enough to represent New Zealand Colts and play Super Rugby with the Highlanders.
At 6’5" and 125 kg Naoupu was a serious unit. The fact Eoin McKeon battled neck and neck for the jersey with Naoupu ensures his candidacy as well.
The balance of a Muldoon, O’Connor, Naoupu back row though is perfect and they comprise a formidable trio.
Candidates: John Muldoon, John O’Sullivan, Ally Muldowney, George Naoupu, Eoin McKeon, Johnny O’Connor, Ray Ofisa, Colby Fainga'a.
RTÉ Selection: George Naoupu, Johnny O’Connor, John Muldoon.
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