Ireland’s two-try Twickenham hero Tommy Bowe has come a long way since terrorising defences in the All Ireland League as a fresh faced student with Queen’s.
Bowe started his senior rugby education with the Dub side after leaving Royal School Armagh and came under the tutorage of Robbie Moore who remembers the Monaghan man fondly.
“Tommy wanted to play for the firsts, seconds, thirds, fourths or the Under-20’s in any position at anytime, it was a case of have boots will travel that’s the way he was and there were no inhibitions — he was just happy to play,” recalled Moore.
“He joined Queen’s with a few RSA boys and I remembered him because he always had a smile on his face and was always laughing and joking and had a great manner about him. At Queen’s we played him in a lot of different positions, in the centre, on the wing or at full back but no matter where we played him the thing that impressed me was his long stride.
“People say he is not the fastest winger but because of his long stride he could cover a lot of ground and that was very noticeable and he wasn’t afraid to try everything or anything. Tommy would try grubber kicks, chip kicks and would run the ball from his own 22 and have the confidence to do it. He scored a lot of tries for Queen’s and from early on he was very reliable and with a 50/50 ball you would always back him.”
Moore remembers one particular game in Division Three when people started to take notice of the rising star.
“We were playing down at Greystones one day and they were fairly high up the league and we were low down and Tommy was playing full back, he scored two tries and their coach and a few other guys came up afterwards and said your full back is something special and that was the first time that other clubs had mentioned him,” added Moore.
“He was very impressive that day with the amount of ground he covered and when he scored he just walked back as if it was just part of his job.”
Moore has coached the likes of Rob Saunders and David Humphreys who both went on to play for Ireland and he knew that Bowe was another precocious talent but it had to be nurtured.
“There was one day Tommy was having a poor game and his dad was beside me on the touchline and said I’d have him in the thirds next week, and then 10 minutes before the end Tommy scored a brilliant try, the following week he was outstanding,” said Moore. “Tommy had that wee bit extra. He was capable of doing great things.”
Bowe was still at Queen’s when he made his Ulster debut against Connacht which he marked with a try and Moore believes staying at the Dub helped his development as a player.
“His dad insisted he stayed at Queen’s, which was good for the club and good for Tommy and who knows what might happen had he left and to play for Ulster was tremendous,” said Moore.
Having already won a Grand Slam and played for the British Lions, Bowe has reached the top but his former coach believes he can achieve anything in the game if he puts his mind to it.
“He really has come on and been impressive, it doesn’t matter who he is running against, he was good for the Lions and that is as high as you can go,” added Moore. “He is very deceptive and I think he is as good a finisher as there is about. He is self motivated.”
Despite all that he has achieved in the game Moore recounts an amazing story when the future Lions star turned up at a match without a very important piece of his kit.
“I remember the day that Tommy forgot his boots and he was terribly embarrassed, the previous week he had brought two left boots and he had to borrow somebody’s,” said Moore. “The next week we were in Ballina and he looked at me sheepishly and said Robbie I’ve no boots and the boys were giving him a lot of banter. Somebody from Ballina got him a pair of boots and when Tommy scored his first try for Ireland the guy phoned me at home to say ‘do you see what those boots did’.”