It’s been about 72 hours since the news broke that Connacht would be parting ways with head coach Kieran Keane after just one season in charge.
The 64-year-old Kiwi, who left his role at the Chiefs to succeed Pat Lam as the province’s new coach, endured a difficult debut to life in Galway.
The season was characterised by inconsistency with the inability to back up a positive performance being a major frustration to supporters of the western province. However, Saturday’s 47-10 thumping of Leinster at a sun-kissed Sportsground showed that when it comes together, Connacht and Keane’s gameplan can be devastating and wonderful to watch.
The majority of the reaction to the news has been that of shock and in many cases, disappointment. There is a belief that Keane should be given another season to further put his stamp on this team. It must be noted that Pat Lam, who guided the westerners to the PRO12 title in 2016, endured a disappointing first season at the helm, much like Keane.
The news has come as a major surprise to supporters and the media alike. This also applies to the club’s departed captain and leader, John Muldoon. The 35-year-old from Portumna was speaking exclusively to Pundit Arena this afternoon at Supermacs on the Tuam Road in Galway City and he admits the news came as a major shock to him.
“Yeah, it did [come as a shock]. It did being honest…I’m disappointed, disappointed for KK [Kieran Keane], disappointed for the lads, disappointed for Connacht that it starts again,” Muldoon said.
“I feel for him because he came in August, obviously he had commitments to his other team, the Chiefs. He came over and met us for a couple of days and flew back. Everyone was really excited about KK joining and everything else but yeah, I’m disappointed that he has only gotten nine months. I think you saw flashes of what might have been and where he wanted to go.”
Muldoon believes that the players must be held responsible for not performing consistently throughout the season, which is essentially what cost Keane his job.
“I just feel that maybe we let him down as players and I feel we didn’t perform as a group and as a unit enough on the big day.
“Ultimately, we had enough of them [big matches] this year to go out there and do it but we were just inconsistent. That is what has cost him his job and I feel for him, I feel for him and his family coming over here. Unfortunately, that’s professional rugby and if you don’t get results or get results quickly you’re on the chopping block.”
Of course, Muldoon is no longer a part of the Connacht setup, that ended on Saturday. He can now consider himself a supporter. He admits that he is not aware of the reasoning behind the decision from the officials in the organisation but he believes himself that Keane warranted another season.
“Ultimately, the powers at be have made the decision and I’m sure they haven’t taken the decision lightly but yeah, probably another year might be warranted,” Muldoon says as he thinks about it.
“Maybe it felt going forward that to reboot and not waste another year…I’m not sure exactly what the idea was but unfortunately I’m out of the loop now as much as anyone so it’s only hearsay by me.
“All I can say is that from a playing perspective and dealing with him over the past year, I’m disappointed to see him go. I enjoyed his directness and the way he spoke to me, I enjoyed it. But yeah, maybe it’s not the same for everyone…”
The “directness” and communication skills from Keane have been cited as a possible factor in the Kiwi’s tenure being cut short after just nine months in the job. Much has been discussed of Keane criticising his players publicly in the media and that the players may have had a serious issue with this. As Muldoon states above, he had no problem with Keane’s style but perhaps other players did.
“I watch a lot of sports, you see some coaches and their team are after playing bad and they come out and criticise them. You see other coaches that come out and won’t say anything and you see other coaches come out and you’re not sure if they’ve answered the question or even if they’ve listened to the question being asked.
“People do it for their own ways and for their own reasons. I say 99% of the time what was said in press conferences with KK was the true feeling of what he had and he was saying that directly to the players.
“For him to criticize us in the press, it didn’t bother me because that’s how I felt downstairs [in the changing room]. It never bothered me that he criticized us in the press and yeah, some coaches have different ways of doing things. If they go up and spin a line, it makes no difference to me. If they go up and criticize us, I’m still going to feel the same way downstairs.
“I know before KK comes into the dressing room or before a review on Monday if we warrant that or we don’t. It’s never really bothered me and yes I can see why some people would take being knocked in the press badly but I also see the other side of it…”
That “other side of it” is a coach’s perspective and of course, that’s how Muldoon will soon be viewing things when he takes on the role of defence coach for Bristol once pre-season begins later in the summer.
For Muldoon, he has just witnessed first hand how cut-throat the world of professional rugby can be as a coach and he will know that all too well as he reunites with Pat Lam in the next chapter of his career.