Sunday 22 October 2017

Bowe happy to be an Osprey

Tommy Bowe's game has come on since moving to Osprey's Photo: Getty Images
Tommy Bowe's game has come on since moving to Osprey's Photo: Getty Images
David Kelly

David Kelly

Of all the many fluctuations during Tommy Bowe's remarkable rise from Ireland bit-player into bona fide rugby superstar, it will be difficult for him to escape the ignominy of his vocal efforts in Dawson Street during last year's Grand Slam homecoming.

Worse, he was subsequently forced to endure heartily ironic reprises of 'The Black Velvet Band' from the Thomond Park stands when his Ospreys side had their wings ruthlessly clipped in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

Few would advocate Swansea as a peaceful retreat, but for this Monaghan man, it has obvious benefits.

"I think that's one thing I enjoy about being in Wales," said a relaxed Bowe at Ireland's Limerick base yesterday. "In Wales, rugby is massive, but if you are not in the Welsh side, it's really not that big, so it's quite easy for me to go unnoticed.

"I don't get any 'what about her eyes?' But then when I come back home, I walk through the lobby and I've some fella telling me not to give up the day job.

"I come back to that whenever I come home, which is nice. But, at the same time, I still like to go back to Wales and just blend into normality."

Of course, there are a lot more strings attached to this particular Bowe, who joined the Ospreys from Ulster in the summer of 2008. An established international -- and a star for the Lions last year -- his interventions, memorably his stunning incision in the Cardiff decider, fuelled Ireland's Grand Slam charge.

And last weekend, he joined a rare club of players to have scored in each round of the Heineken Cup pool stages for an Ospreys side, who could renew hostilities with Munster in this year's semi-final.

Little wonder that there was such a race to secure his coveted signature at the turn of the year, as Irish provinces queued up to nab his services. Ultimately, he stayed loyal to the Welsh region, who have played such a big role in his development.

"That was a huge, huge relief," he said of his tortuous decision to spurn home comforts for the hitherto under-achievers. "It was a very difficult time for me. There was a huge pull for me to come back to Ireland and be playing my rugby in my home country.

"But I had to look at it from a rugby point of view and I just thought that since going over there, my game has definitely come on in leaps and bounds.

"The people suit me on the coaching side of things and, from a purely rugby point of view, it made sense that I stay where I am and keep going the way I am, especially with the World Cup coming up.

"It was a huge disappointment for me not to be involved in the World Cup last time and I wanted to give myself the strongest chance.

"Coming back to Ireland might have helped me from some perspectives, but, from a rugby point of view, staying where I am was important for me."


It clearly helped that these days there is a more empathetic understanding of the wish for Irish players to ply their trade abroad, especially if, as Bowe's case demonstrably proves, that player can heighten his contribution to the national cause by moving overseas.

The Irish management have been able to monitor Bowe as easily as any other player and, with the Welsh sides also governed by their own union's player-welfare concerns, there is little fear of him being flogged like, say, a Guinness Premiership or French Top 14 player.

"Playing in the English Premiership or over in France is going to be difficult because the coaches have to go quite far to see you," Bowe confirmed.

"But playing in the Magners League, you're coming up against Irish opposition once every couple of weeks, so the coaches don't have to go too far out of their way.

"They can watch matches -- they are all on TV -- and it gives me that little bit more of a chance of keeping in touch with the coaches. It may not be ideal, but for me it's worked okay so far.

"I spoke to Declan (Kidney) a long time ago about it. He's happy. He said it hasn't worked against me in the past. He wasn't going to tell me there and then whether it would in the future. It's up to me; it's my decision to make and he'll go with it from there.

"Compared to the English and the French, where they would be expected back this weekend to play -- the Ospreys are playing the Dragons -- but they've given me the weekend off to concentrate on the internationals.

"They've got a lot of internationals in their side and they want to keep it that way. They are very proud of the people who are going to represent their country and are still a part of the Ospreys side. They don't want to hinder those players and are very happy to push them on."

Bowe gladly accepts that his game is still improving, but, mercifully, he has spurned the admittedly limited interest in developing his karaoke routine.

"Eh, maybe if we win another Grand Slam," he laughed. "It was a bit of fun at the time. I can kinda laugh at it now. It was just something that happened that day, but I think the whole Grand Slam was a lot bigger than that."

So, safe to say no more musical interludes? "No, no far from from it. No, no." We'll take that as a no, then.

Irish Independent

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