Exeter Chiefs lock Muldowney signs for Connacht
Exeter Chiefs forward Aly Muldowney is set to leave the Aviva Premiership club at the end of the season.
Lock Muldowney has agreed a three-year deal with Irish province Connacht.
The 29-year-old has made 35 appearances in two seasons at Sandy Park since his arrival from Glasgow Warriors.
He was offered a new contract by Chiefs but opted to move on, much to head coach Rob Baxter's disappointment.
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Baxter said: "Obviously we are sad to see Aly moving on from the club. He was offered a new deal by us, but obviously this move is a great opportunity for him and his family.
"We of course wish him all the best for the future and thank him for his contribution to the club. However, there is still just under half a season to go for us all and we envisage him playing his part between now and the end of the season."
Muldowney, who is Irish qualified by virtue of his father, said: "It was a tough decision to leave the Chiefs because I have really enjoyed my time at the club.
"Since coming to Exeter I feel my game has come on leaps and bounds, especially working with Rob [Baxter], Ali [Hepher], Ricky [Pellow] and all the other coaches. Also the support I've received from everyone, especially the supporters, has been amazing.
"Moving to Connacht, though, is a great opportunity for me and my family. I have watched them play in the Heineken Cup this year and they are a really tough side with some great players.
"Having played against them before whilst at Glasgow I know that they are tough opponents, so I'm really looking forward to being a part of the team and adding what I can. It's also an exciting time for the club also with a new head coach in Pat Lam coming in."
A delighted Connacht chief executive, Tom Sears, added: "Aly is a player we have looked at for some time; our coaching staff have watched him a lot and identified him as one of our key recruitment targets. Pat Lam has also been kept in the loop and is delighted he will have Aly in his squad for next season.
"He is a very physical, ball carrying Irish qualified lock who gets through an enormous amount of work and we have managed to get him to Connacht ahead of stiff competition from several sides in the Aviva Premiership and elsewhere.
"We are putting a great deal of work into a recruitment for next year and finding a leading Irish qualified player to bolster our options in the second row was one of the priorities."
The news comes just days after Baxter lost flanker Tom Johnson to a serious knee injury.
The England forward will miss out on a potential debut appearance in the Six Nations, with the prognosis for his return though to be between two and three months.
Johnson injured his knee during the Chiefs' Heineken Cup defeat to Leinster at Sandy Park last Saturday.
Baxter said: "Tom is probably as good as he could have been, looking at the way the injury was caused.
"It was a very similar injury to what Ben White had and he is back now 100 per cent and flying. We are predicting a very similar outcome for Tom and expect him to be back within about ten weeks.
"It is a ligament tear. It is not completely gone but it is pretty badly ruptured. There will not be an operation and he will just do rehab now."
Johnson's injury leaves Welsh prop Craig Mitchell as the only Chiefs player likely to be involved in the Six Nations next month.
Baxter says all of his players have ambitions to be internationals. He said: "There is a reality in how a club develops. For us, in our first couple of years in the Premiership, we wanted to be able to work with the group of players that were here.
"It probably favoured us that we didn't get disrupted during the international games with lots of call-ups. But if you want to develop as a side and as players, you have to get the players to be ambitious and want them to want more than Premiership rugby.
"Every guy we have got here wants to try and push on and get international rugby – that is very important to us."