The Heartbeat of United: Conor Muldoon

Thursday 30 May 2024 07:59

It’s a long way to Old Trafford from the small County Tyrone village of Eglish but, six years ago, boyhood Manchester United fan Conor Muldoon completed the journey.

At that time, Muldoon joined the club’s Foundation as a SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) coordinator. Nowadays, he also oversees our mascots’ matchday experience.
Meaning those back home in Eglish (population 515) regularly see him pop up on their TV screens, as the 20-times champions of England walk out on to M16’s sacred turf.
“People back home in Ireland, they’ll be thinking: that’s unbelievable, what a job,” admits Conor.
“They might see you on Sky Sports News or on social media channels with your United uniform on, around the first team or the women’s team. They’re all absolutely buzzing for you, to be fair, though they’ll laugh about it and say: ‘Oh, these are your mates now, are they?’”
Conor on Foundation duty, accompanied by Harry Maguire and Tom Heaton.
Muldoon grew up idolising Roy Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy, but United was a somewhat exotic interest in his countryside village. Not to mention his own family...
“Not many people would really be into soccer – it would be more Gaelic football,” he explains. “And my family members were mostly Liverpool fans, so I was the black sheep!
“We used to go down and watch the United-Liverpool games with our family friends, the Goodfellows. There’d be United fans on one side of the sofa and Liverpool fans on the other! Because we lived in such a small village, everyone came together to watch the big games.”
An uncle studying at Leeds University was perhaps the key influence on his support, gifting him a Cantona United kit (“the one with the badge in a circle”) when he was just four. He didn’t always get his way when it came to replica shirts, mind.
“I remember going into JJB years later and it was like 50p a letter and £2.50 a number and my mum telling me: ‘No, you’re not having van Nistelrooy!’” he chuckles. “So I had to settle for Giggs 11, but they were brilliant times. We were spoilt growing up, seeing 1999, the Champions League in 2008, three-in-a-row Premier League titles.”
Conor’s had some brilliant experiences since joining the club, whether meeting countless players and former greats or regularly going down to Carrington. But his greatest buzz comes from helping the kids that the Foundation works with enjoy similar thrills.
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“The way I approach it would be that these kids have got the same opportunities as us, but not many people can see it,” he says.
“You’ve just got to break down them barriers; there’s opportunities out there for everyone. We’ve got some great staff within the Foundation who push that to give students, participants and family members amazing life experiences that they’ll remember forever. And they’ll develop their own life skills, which is what we want.”
Every Old Trafford matchday, Conor also coordinates the mascot experience, which brings perhaps the greatest highs for young Foundation participants. 
Conor chews the fat with defensive great Rio Ferdinand.
“Mascots will arrive an hour and a half before kick-off. They’ll have something to eat, get their kit, go out on the pitch and meet a United legend and then meet all the players and get autographs, then watch the warm-up.
“Mascots will then walk out with their favourite player – nowadays everyone wants to go out with Garnacho, but the poor lad only has two hands!
“But there’s some funny moments,” he continues. “When we played Liverpool in the league, after we’d beat them in the FA Cup, in the matchday programme there was a photo of Amad. One of the little mascots asked Klopp if he would sign the photo! It killed me! Klopp was lovely though. He was really laughing and just gave the lad a little shove!”
Mascot duty has led to some humorous moments, with Jurgen Klopp and others.
Those are the kind of mad, magical moments that Conor’s job can deliver, and his own obvious belief in the power of United clearly inspires his day-to-day approach to his role.
“It’s more than just a job when you’re a fan,” he believes.
“It’s a dream come true to have a role like this within the club and to create better experiences in life for students who are disadvantaged across Greater Manchester. And you get to put that badge on every day.”