Frustrated Tommy Bowe focused on brighter future as he looks to be back in groove
As seasons go, the 2015/16 campaign is not one that Ulster and Ireland star Tommy Bowe will be remembering fondly.
Having forced his way back into Joe Schmidt's starting side in time for the crunch games of the World Cup some ten months ago, a serious knee injury shipped in the quarter-final loss to Argentina has plagued him ever since with a failed comeback attempt in April making matters all the more difficult to bear.
"It just has been very, very frustrating. It's hard to put into words," he said, speaking at an event to promote this weekend's 'Walk the Walls for Cavan' event.
"It's been tough to work so hard to get back fit, and to feel really good when I was back playing, and then have to sit out again.
"I played that 'A' game and then got 80 minutes against Zebre and I was enjoying it but just that little twinge set me back.
"It was something very small but is just kept me from doing the rehab for a couple of weeks."
While a second surgery was required, this time it was exploratory and although he could have struggled on, it was decided that the only sensible course of action was to aim for full fitness ahead of pre-season starting in July.
"It was just a time when we had to look at the bigger picture," Bowe says.
"I could have easily kept on going and been 70 or 80% but am I a benefit to the team at that level with the likes of Gilly and Trimby (Craig Gilroy and Andrew Trimble) playing so well?
"If I had of kept going, I would have been pushed back for next season but now, with plenty of time on my side, I can work away and build things up.
"I'll be 100% for pre-season and looking forward to a big season ahead."
It is the promise of that big season that has provided motivation during rehab for the two-time Lions tourist who has amassed 67 caps for Ireland.
With star names Charles Piutau and Marcell Coetzee arriving in Belfast next season, Bowe expects the end of a silverware drought that is starting to irk one of just four men still around from the 2006 league title.
"It was a difficult decision but I had to take an overview because there's so much to play for next year," he says.
"Ulster have a huge opportunity. We've some new players coming in and we'll build on this season.
"It was the ten-year anniversary of us winning the last trophy and that's stuff that I find really frustrating.
"We're a team that has so much promise and I'd love to be part of an Ulster team that goes on to really win things."
For now, in between rehab, Bowe is taking the opportunity to get his "head showered" with a summer break to the west coast of America with wife Lucy. And while pleased with the chance to spend their one-year wedding anniversary together in San Francisco, Bowe admits he would have relished involvement in Ireland's summer tour to South Africa.
"I'd love to be in South Africa, especially after missing out on the Six Nations. I've never toured South Africa with Ireland, I've been with the Lions and it's incredible. It's hard not to be there but I need to stay positive. At the moment that's the plan and I'll be raring to go next season."
Both Les Kiss and Joe Schmidt will be glad to hear it.