O’Leary happy to let Bowe grab limelight
Media day for the Ireland rugby squad and Tommy Bowe is much in demand.
Quiet man: Tomas O’Leary (left) has been joking about Ireland team-mate Tommy Bowe’s attraction to the limelight INPHO
Eyes shining like diamonds, the journos are queuing up for the winger and part-time singer. Print, radio and television — they all want their piece of the Ospreys man who has become Irish rugby's pin-up boy over the course of two seasons of sensational form.
Tomas O'Leary makes a low-key entrance by comparison. He knows Bowe well, dating back to their involvement in the Ireland U-21 side that lost the World Cup final in 2004, and the scrum-half, who prefers to shy away from the spotlight, chuckles at all the attention his team-mate is getting.
“Tommy's getting caught up in the whole socialite scene alright,” smiles O'Leary.
“I think he's been on every TV show in Ireland, he's been on 'The Late Late Show', ‘The Restaurant' of course and I saw a clip of him on ‘The Cafe' recently too.
“Tommy's been getting awards all over the shop, Player of the Year here and there and I don't know how many tries he's got; I think it's 21 he was telling me last week when he was rooming with me. He never stops going on about the awards.
“So he's enjoying the limelight definitely.
“Himself, Jamie (Heaslip) and Rob Kearney are vying for all the attention. It wouldn't be my scene at all.
“But it's great to see those guys picking it up to that level on the pitch too. Tommy and Jamie — whom I think is arguably the best No 8 in the world — it makes you want to try and match that yourself.”
Heaslip was another member of that 2004 World Cup, the campaign when O'Leary first came to wider attention on the rugby field having already made his mark on the hurling pitch by leading Cork to a minor All-Ireland title.
The past six years have been a tale of steady progression, with its share of hiccups, and he is now established first-choice No 9 for Munster and Ireland and would have represented the Lions last summer had he not broken his ankle. However, O'Leary goes into Saturday's Test with New Zealand determined to prove himself once again.
“I've been up and down definitely. I know I've had good days and bad days this season, it's about trying to get a level of consistency, but it doesn't really matter how your own game goes once the team goes well,” he said.
“Unfortunately, with Munster we didn't produce and I suppose Leinster the same. Ulster and Connacht also had disappointing ends to the season and that's nagging away at all the players, but that's why you want to make it a successful tour and that's why everyone is mad keen.
“When I came into the Munster squad I was getting a lot of criticism and it hit me hard. I'm well aware that there's criticism of me in a lot of quarters, but when you're an international half-back you're going to get that,” he said.
“I've learnt to deal with it, It doesn't bother me in the least.”