Sport Rugby

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Retiring Bowe's highlights reel sure to stand the test of time

Tommy Bowe leaves Welsh winger Shane Williams clutching at straws as he
goes over for Ireland’s second try in the famous Grand Slam game of 2009 Photo: Sportsfile
Tommy Bowe leaves Welsh winger Shane Williams clutching at straws as he goes over for Ireland’s second try in the famous Grand Slam game of 2009 Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

It was no surprise when Tommy Bowe announced his decision to retire at the end of the season yesterday after a difficult few years.

The Monaghan man is just 33, but a raft of serious injuries have taken their toll and the sight of the Ulster winger limping off before the end his team's humbling defeat to Leinster last week was sadly a familiar one.

In the fullness of time, Bowe won't be remembered for his increasingly frequent early departures but for the scintillating moments he contributed to Ulster, the Ospreys, Ireland and the Lions over the course of a glittering career.

He is set to miss the Six Nations through injury and, in truth, was unlikely to get into Joe Schmidt's squad anyway, so it is safe to assume that he'll retire with 69 caps for his country and second on the all-time try-scorers' list with 30, 16 short of his old team-mate Brian O'Driscoll.

On top of that, he is a five-times capped Test Lion who was a fan's favourite during the epic tour of South Africa in 2009 and the man Warren Gatland waited for as he played with a broken arm in the series win over Australia four years later.

By 2013, injuries were playing an all too familiar role in his life and his momentum was checked on a regular basis.

Before he damaged his lateral knee ligament in 2012, Bowe had had a long, clear run without any issues and during that time he took full advantage of his talents.

Capped by Eddie O'Sullivan against the United States in 2004, he had to wait until 2008 to secure a regular berth in the Ireland team.

He endured plenty of early criticism, some of which he referenced in the Limerick he used to confirm his retirement, with George Hook famously questioning his pace as a top-level winger.

Although he was part of the 2006 Celtic League-winning side at Ulster, Bowe upped sticks and left for Swansea to link up with the Ospreys in 2008 - a move that coincided with some of his best form for Ireland.

Despite playing abroad, Declan Kidney continued to pick him and he was a key player in the 2009 Grand Slam, scoring the famous try at the Millennium Stadium after gathering Ronan O'Gara's perfectly weighted cross-kick to split two Welsh defenders and race from inside his own half to touch down.

It is a moment that guarantees him a spot on Reeling in the Years forever more.

He followed up with a leading role on the Lions tour the following year and he then claimed the 2010 Six Nations player of the year award, scoring two tries in the win over England at Twickenham.

He won two more Celtic League medals with the Ospreys, before returning to Ulster in 2012, but his move home coincided with his unfortunate run of injuries and unless he fights back to fitness and plays a part in an unlikely trophy win for the northern province, his club career will end without the volume of silverware his talent has merited.

Not that he'll complain too much given he was back in an Ireland shirt to contribute to the 2015 Six Nations win having missed Joe Schmidt's first successful campaign and while he struggled for form in the build up to that year's World Cup, Schmidt showed faith and started him in the biggest games against France and Argentina.

Less than 10 minutes into the quarter-final loss to the Pumas, he went up for a high ball and landed awkwardly, rupturing his posterior cruciate ligament.

He missed the rest of the season and, in truth, hasn't hit the same high notes since. He featured twice off the bench in last year's Six Nations campaign, but with an lengthening queue of young guns ready to take his place Bowe has found his opportunities limited.

And so, at 33, he's decided to give it up; posting the following poem on Twitter to confirm the news.

"I've spent most of my career in Belfast

At first George said I wasn't very fast

I eventually found my gears

Had some incredible years

But it's time to tell you - this is my last!"

His primary focus now it to try and come back from the latest injury setback and make some contribution to Ulster's season run-in before hanging up his boots for the last time.

When he does, he can be happy to have made a lasting contribution to the game in Ireland and can look forward to developing his business interests and growing his career in the media.

Not many players get to experience the highs the man from Emyvale did during a glittering career.

His highlights reel will stand the test of time and we'll be hearing Ryle Nugent crying 'Tommy Bowe!' on every retrospective television show for the years to come.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport