It got a special mention in his retirement 'poem' but Tommy Bowe admits that the criticism he received from George Hook on his Ireland debut was 'a big deal'.
Writing on Twitter back in February to announce that this season would be his last as a professional rugby player, the 34-year-old said: " At first George said I wasn’t fast; I eventually found my gears; Had some incredible years; But’s time to tell you this is my last."
The 'George' he was referring to was former RTE pundit George Hook who famously claimed that the Monaghan native didn't have the pace to be an international winger after he had scored a try on his international debut against the USA in 2004.
Iâve spent most of my career in Belfast,— Tommy Bowe (@TommyBowe) January 15, 2018
At first George said I wasnât very fast,
I eventually found my gears,
Had some incredible years,
But itâs time to tell you - this is my last! pic.twitter.com/KZa8Rwk4G1
Bowe would prove that Hook was spectacularly wrong following a glittering international career that yielded 30 tries for Ireland, second only to Brian O'Driscoll on the all-time list, and his crucial score against Wales in Cardiff back in 2009 was vital in a famous Grand Slam success.
Speaking on Independent.ie's rugby podcast The Left Wing in association with Laya Healthcare, Bowe responded to being asked if Hook's comments stuck in his craw, saying: "Not really. Obviously I come from Monaghan where rugby is definitely not the number one sport so I think whenever I got my first cap so many people in Monaghan were watching on RTE and they were delighted to see a local man get his first cap for Ireland.
"Like everybody, they hang on every word coming out of George's mouth and he said, 'Tommy Bowe isn't fast enough' and literally everyone in Monaghan was in uproar.
"Everybody I was talking to was like, 'Don't listen to him'.
"At the time I was 20 and it was a big deal for me and it was a bit of a shock. You're on cloud nine and then you're told you're never going to get there again.
"I mentioned it as a bit of a mess around. I actually met George recently and he asked me to come on his show and I said, 'George, you tried to ruin my career' and he said, 'Tommy, I made your career'."
Luke Fitzgerald recalled the ribbing Bowe got from Ronan O'Gara and Brian O'Driscoll after Hook's remarks. Something he remembers vividly.
"Dogs abuse I got," he said.
The best illustration of Bowe's pace was when he burned Shane Williams as he scored a try in Ireland's Grand Slam clinching win over the Welsh nine years ago.
"I got asked about it (Hook's comments) in the aftermath and I mentioned it again. It must have been something that was burning deep inside me but thankfully I've let it go now."