Ulster and Ireland player Tommy Bowe has announced his retirement from professional rugby as of the end of the current season, 14 years after making a try-scoring debut for his native province against Connacht.
The Co. Monaghan-born player issued an open letter in which he thanked those who supported him throughout his career. The Tommy Bowe letter reads as follows:
An Open Letter from Tommy Bowe
As the saying goes, time stands still for no man (or sportsman). And so, 14 years on from signing my first professional contract with Ulster Rugby, I feel very fortunate to be able to say this will be my final season.
I could never have imagined the career professional rugby has given me and I am so grateful to my close friends, family and agent Ryan Constable for their incredible support throughout the highs and lows. My beautiful wife Lucy has been my rock and little daughter Emma my newest inspiration.
I want to thank everyone involved in Ulster Rugby, the Ospreys, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions for giving me the chance to live a dream I never thought possible. I’d also like to thank all those at Royal School Armagh, Queen’s University and Monaghan RFC minis, where it all began.
To my teammates; the bond of going out onto the field together and the most special feeling in a changing room after a win are what I am going to treasure in the last few months as I will miss them most. I’ve met some incredible people and made friends that will hopefully last a lifetime.
Lastly to you – the supporters – thank you for your backing throughout my career. From my singing Black Velvet Band (never again I promise!) to your continued messages of kindness and unwavering support, despite my injuries in latter years, I am eternally grateful.
Who knows what the future will hold…
Definitely not singing!
Tommy Bowe, 16th January 2018.
Ulster’s Director of Rugby Less Kiss has paid tribute to the Royal School Armagh past pupil, stating:
“Tommy and I have shared so many brilliant memories together over the years, with both Ulster and Ireland.
The Grand Slam in 2009 is something that I will cherish forever and his contribution to that success was immense. He has consistently produced on the biggest stages and that was perhaps most apparent in his appearances for the British & Irish Lions.
For Ulster, Tommy has been an absolutely outstanding servant. He has been one of the go-to players in the team since his debut back in 2004, scoring tries and playing well on a consistent basis.
His tremendous leadership attributes have been a massive help to the playing group, while he has selflessly mentored some of the younger players in our system.
He has fought back from a number of long-term injuries, particularly in recent seasons, and that is testament to his strength of character.
Tommy is a pleasure to work with and he’ll be missed next year, for sure. However, we have a big few months ahead and I know that he will be focused on making those as successful as possible.”
Bowe’s captain at both provincial and international level, Rory Best, made the following statement about his team mate:
“I’ve been fortunate to have played with Tommy for a very long time and we have shared some incredible times together in Ulster, Ireland and Lions jerseys.
In my opinion, his qualities as a player are exceeded only by his qualities as a person. He is a genuine, honest, humble guy, and I have the utmost respect for him.
Tommy is a key member of our leadership group at Ulster and he has continually led the way in terms of driving our standards on and off the pitch. He is the ultimate professional and he is the perfect example for any aspiring young player to follow.
I’m sure Tommy would like nothing more than to finish this season on a high and that’s what we, as a collective, are aiming to do.”
Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt, who described the winger/centre as “a class act both on and off the pitch”, added:
“He has been a great ambassador for Irish Rugby and played a key role in the Grand Slam of 2009 and the Six Nations Championship of 2015. He’s inspired many of the people around him and entertained crowds for over a decade.”