Flying winger takes to skies
Bowe an airborne advert for switch abroad as he fights to be fit for Italy
IT was a sense of adventure that made up Tommy Bowe's mind to up sticks and move to Wales.
Rather than staying at home in Ulster and going with the status quo, the Monaghan man signed for the Ospreys and hasn't looked back.
And not only has he developed his on-field abilities since transferring to Swansea, Bowe has become more than just the quintessential flying winger.
His latest hobby is a headline writer's dream. The 26-year-old is homing in on his pilot's licence in Wales after taking lessons in a two-seater Icarus plane that does well to fit his 6ft3in, 15-stone frame.
Flying too close to the sun? Well there's little fear of the down-to-earth Ireland and Lions star getting too ahead of himself -- he endured many hard days in a green jersey before he became one of the poster boys of the Irish team.
The days of Bowe being castigated for his perceived lack of pace and handling skills are long gone.
Indeed, his injured knee -- he hopes to be fit in time for next week's Six Nations opener with Italy -- is a massive cause for concern. Ireland without Bowe in the No 14 jersey is a prospect many fans, not to mention Declan Kidney, won't want to countenance.
He revealed his new passion to his 13,043 followers on Twitter, and he explains it was Ospreys team-mate Ian Gough who introduced him to flying.
"I've been doing it for about a year now, off and on," he says.
"I think that I've about 20 hours clocked up, I've flown solo and I've about another eight to 10 hours solo to do and a few exams. Then hopefully I'll be able to fly back home to training.
"I roomed with Ian Gough at one stage and he's big into it; he has his own plane.
"He was looking through the Auto Trader for a plane and we were just having a bit of a chat about it -- one of his friends is a flight instructor. He said to give him a call and even go up for a trial flight.
"And I went up one day. Around South Wales there are really nice beaches and coastline and stuff, it's really quite amazing. So I've been out for a load of lessons now.
"We went out one day, the plane is literally tiny, and we ended up flying down and he was like, 'If you wanted to take a girl on a date sometime, this is where you'd go'."
New experiences. That's the reason Bowe packed his bag and left home in 2008. He hasn't looked back.
A number of his international team-mates are now being tempted with moves abroad and he can identify with their dilemma.
"It's a very difficult decision," he explains. "There's lots of money on the table in the likes of France but it was always just a case of getting away and trying something different.
"Being based in Limerick, Belfast or Dublin for however many years, it is maybe nice to get away a fresh picture and breath of fresh air with a different team. It gets you out of a comfort zone and makes you have to buck up your ideas.
"You are under that bit more pressure to get yourself into the team. I can empathise with a few guys who are maybe looking at going abroad. I can see where they are coming from but, at the same time, there are a huge amount of positives with the player welfare programme and staying at home.
"I could have gone to England or to France, but for me at the time the guys who were playing in England were perhaps not getting the same opportunities.
"At the Ospreys, I would be playing against Irish opposition once in every three to four weeks: the (Ireland) coaches do not have to go far out of their way for you to be in the shop window. It's very quick for me to be able to nip back if I need to train.
"To go to France is that little bit more difficult. It's that much harder for coaches to see your games and it would be that bit tougher to keep your place."
Those are the issues that are sure to be dominating the minds of others as they assemble for Ireland duty this week with their futures undecided.
Bowe has no such worries. He made his decision and has been rewarded on the pitch. Off it he and Gough have taken the plane on some interesting escapades, as he explains of his first flight.
"He took me down and we landed on the fairway of a golf course and there was a guy playing up the opposite direction," he says. "We turned around, parked in the car park, went in and had a chat with the people in there and went out and played five holes and then took off again. Small things like that made me think, 'Aw, I'd definitely love to do that'."
And he did, taking the plunge and not looking back. It's a mantra that has served him well so far and -- today's knee scan permitting -- he hopes will keep his successful stint in green going this spring.