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I'll give my all in last days at Ulster: Bowe

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Given the way Ulster's season has panned out, few could be blamed for hoping it would end sooner rather than later. For one of the province's favourite sons, however, these final four games are to be savoured.

If Ulster lose to Edinburgh in Murrayfield on Friday night, their play-off hopes end and for many it will draw a line under a best-forgotten campaign. But for Tommy Bowe, it will be the last of his career after it was announced back in January that he would hang up his boots this summer.

Few from Ulster in the professional era have amassed a CV to rival the Monaghan man, a career that includes 69 Ireland caps, two Lions tours and the record for PRO14 tries. In his last four weeks as an Ulster player, the 34-year-old is ready to embrace the next chapter of his life.

"I've known that this was going to be my final year since the start of it so I've been trying to enjoy the matches and make the most of them," he said.

"But this is the final straight now I suppose. I've been trying to enjoy the craic with the lads, the nerves in the build-up to the games, they're the things that you'll miss.

"The way the results have gone have been frustrating so you don't want to be savouring them too much but at the same time it's great to be involved and there's so much still at stake, I'm just trying to do what is best for the team.

"My retirement is one thing but there's a lot bigger fish to fry. I'm trying to do whatever I can to help out with that."

The big decision came back in pre-season and, despite the odd thought of playing on, Bowe has seen too many players forced into retirement to take going out on his own terms for granted.

"This time last year, I was injured and it would have been easy for me to think, 'Right, that's it, I've had a lot of injuries, it won't be worth coming back again'. But every time I've got injured I've always looked at it as a real challenge to get fit, to get in that team. People are always thinking that you're done. My daughter had been born so things were a bit upside down, but with new coaches coming in, I knew I could get back fit and give it one last shot. That was always my plan.

"So many guys that I've played with have had to retire, whether that be through injury or loss of contract. To move onto another career is such a big move so to be able to do it on my own terms is something that hopefully makes life a bit easier."

Bowe has already made his first forays into TV work having been a presenter on the BBC travel show Getaways, while he has established clothing and footwear ranges in his spare time over the past few seasons.

Rather than spend his retirement resting and relaxing, he hopes to get more involved in both, as well as seeking out new opportunities in the months that lie ahead.

"I think I'll get stuck into something," he said. "If I'm going to be involved in the filming of Getaways again, that's pretty quickly after the end of the season and hopefully I get a few more trips away there.

"I'm going to get myself really involved in the clothing and the shoe business, try to immerse myself in that a lot more, and maybe there's potential for a few more TV opportunities too. There'll be enough to keep me busy.

"I'd like to get away for a holiday with the family but I'll keep myself ticking over."

One area of TV he doesn't see himself seeking work is in punditry, for now seeing little possibility of himself linking up with former team-mate Stephen Ferris in a good cop, bad cop routine.

"Punditry isn't something that really interests me at the minute but never say never," he said. "It's a bit like coaching. I've never been the best of trainers so to go watch people train on a daily basis might not work for me.

"I love the game, but to coach I think you have to eat, sleep and breathe it. I've always had stuff going on behind the scenes to keep myself challenged and that's the point of having other interests away from the game.

"I'm looking forward to becoming a supporter. I think I could offer something in punditry but I'd like to go a different route. Presenting is something I've enjoyed and presenting rugby could maybe be something I'd look at."

But what of playing? Former team-mates Roger Wilson and Ricky Lutton have both been turning out in the junior leagues this season. Could Bowe see himself doing something similar?

"Not a chance," he laughed. "I'm involved with the Perennials but I've to wait a year before I hit the 35-plus age bracket and they've already told me there might not be a place for me on the wing. I might have to look at the second-row."

Edinburgh

Ulster

Guinness PRO14 Championship:

BT Murrayfield, Friday, 7.35pm

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