Two legends of two provinces, John Muldoon and Tommy Bowe, retire from rugby after 14 years involvement in the professional game.
Having both grown up in GAA territory, they have since racked up nearly 600 appearances for their respective provincial clubs, and although their careers may have taken different paths, both will leave the playing game as rugby giants.
Bowe, with 69 Ireland caps and five for the Lions in two tours, first clashed with Muldoon playing for their respective provincial U20 teams. “John and his brother were playing at the time, and it was known then these guys were hot property, serious players. What John has done in Connacht has embodied what Connacht Rugby is,” says Bowe.
While Bowe opted to spend four seasons with the Ospreys - “the best decision” - Muldoon remained a one-club man. “I was fortunate that it worked for me. I will be 34 at the end of the year, and there are very few outside backs who get to play at the top level for 14 years, especially on the wing.
“It wasn’t really about the money for me, but the experience - a different place, different culture, a different way of playing the game, and I came home with my wife [Lucy], I loved it. For players nowadays, with injuries and contracts, it can become a very short career, so if they want to go and maximise their earnings in a way which it can set them up for life, and they are not able to get the same money at home, they have to explore those opportunities,” he says.
“People such as Gavin Duffy, who were Connacht through and through, went off and had a stint in Harlequins. They learned a lot and came back, and showed that the rugby in Harlequins was no better than what they were playing in Connacht. That John stayed in Connacht throughout his whole career, has led Connacht for so long, and to see where they have come from to winning the league, is exceptional.
“Of course John would love to have played for Ireland on many more occasions, but you could say the same for Roger Wilson up North. He had more than 200 caps for Ulster, and 100 in the Premiership - he has one cap for Ireland. Unfortunately the back row is such a hotly contested position, specially in Ireland. As a player John could have easily won a lot more caps, but I think what he has stood for and what he has done for Connacht rugby is extraordinary.”
A wild card in the Ulster academy, whose plan to study at university in Scotland was scuppered by messing up his A levels, Bowe announced his entrance on the Ulster stage in the 2003/4 season. Against Connacht in Ravenhill, he took an inside pass from Johnny Bell, showed his pace, scored a try, and never looked back. While not always smooth sailing - beset by injuries and axed by Eddie O’Sullivan in 2006 - but since then he has won numerous awards, culminating in 2010 when he was named the Player of the championship for the Six Nations, IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year, and the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year.
Those awards pale in comparison to one moment - his first Ireland cap in the 2004 Autumn Internationals against the USA. “It was almost beyond a dream because it never occurred to me that I would ever be picked for Ireland, so to go on two Lions tour is a bit surreal. I remember standing singing the anthems, getting my first cap, and the messages I received. I still look back and say it was the highlight of the whole lot, because it never appeared that it would become a reality. All of sudden to play in that theatre which was always a dream, and whatever went after that - some incredible memories and some tough times as well - that first cap, it’s every kids’ dream.”
That is something else Bowe and Muldoon have in common.
Some 250 Aviva Insurance customers attended the enjoyed an exclusive event at The G Hotel, Galway, where they were treated to a special screening of Ireland’s first NatWest 6 Nations match against France with Connacht legend John Muldoon, Ireland’s Jenny Murphy and Aviva ambassador Tommy Bowe, who also took part in an Off the Ball broadcast throughout the event . For a chance to attend exclusive events like these go to www.aviva.ie to see the benefits of becoming an Aviva customer. #IMWITHAVIVA