Punditry in motion: Tommy Bowe tackles the presenting game

Apart from gripping the clipboard nervously, Eir Sport’s new Pro14 star is doing fine

Tommy Bowe, Peter Stringer and Donncha O’Callaghan at Thomond Park: Peter fella presumably left with the mother of all cricks in his neck. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Tommy Bowe, Peter Stringer and Donncha O’Callaghan at Thomond Park: Peter fella presumably left with the mother of all cricks in his neck. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

The new rugby season has started and, by all accounts, taking into consideration Six Nations and World Cup matters, as well as the club stuff, it won’t end for around another 4½ years. There are, then, plenty of games to go around, and eir Sport have helped themselves to a mountain of Pro14 coverage, warning us in advance that they’d have around 30 hours of it every week throughout the campaign – which is quite a lot.

So, if Tommy Bowe thought he could bid adieu to all that strength and conditioning lark when he retired from the game, he was sadly mistaken: his workload as eir Sport’s shiny new Pro14 presenter is on the highly weighty side.

He does at least have Luke Fitzgerald and Donncha O’Callaghan to help him in the chatting department, although the sight of the three of them in their civvies over the weekend, with not a gumshield between them, was a reminder than none of us is as young as we’d very much like to be.

Tommy looks around 22, Luke about 19 and Donncha in or around 23¾, so it’s difficult coming to terms with the fact that they’re not still making up one-fifth of the Irish team. Likewise Maz Reilly who’s looking after the player/coach interviews. The message is now clear to any of you who hoped one day to work in rugby on telly: you better amass in or around a century of caps before you even think about applying.

A touch nervous

Tommy had admitted earlier in the week that he was “shitting” himself ahead of his debut, which came in Friday’s coverage of Leinster’s trip to Cardiff. But he did just fine. The only indication that he was a touch nervous was his habit at Thomond Park on Saturday of staring at a clipboard gripped exceedingly tightly by his left hand, which gave him the look of a man doing his very first market research survey, who stops you in the street and asks if you have five minutes but takes 37. (“Do you intend buying a new tumble dryer in the next two years? Is your answer (a) Definitely, (b) Maybe, (c) No, (d) Don’t Know?”).

Donncha, whose tan will make Donald Trump assume he’s his long-lost cousin if he sets eyes on him during his visit here in November, was perfectly relaxed, being an old pro at this telly carry-on at this stage, and Luke was grand too apart from an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction when naked flesh, in his tummy region, was visible through his shirt buttons.

Luke later apologised to eir Sport viewers and promised in future that it will “normally be a family show”, but you couldn’t but reflect on Alizé Cornet receiving a code violation at the US Open for taking off her shirt to turn it around, while eir Sport let Luke off scot-free. Come to think of it, Donncha once stripped to his Munster red underwear on the field of play and received no sanction either. The sisters have a very long way to go.

Mullering

Peter Stringer, meanwhile, took his place in between Tommy and Donncha on the Thomond Park pitch ahead of Munster mullering 15 Cheetahs; the fella presumably left with the mother of all cricks in his neck. But he, too, is looking comfy enough with this punditry business, although he holds his microphone a little like someone from Westlife after they leap from their stool to burst in to the chorus. But this too will pass: it’s all part of the telly teething process, and, him being a useful rugby player in his time, like Tommy, Luke and Donncha, we can only assume he’s talking a considerable amount of sense.

Still, it’s disconcerting to realise that there are small people out there who will now know Tommy, Luke, Donncha and Peter more for their telly work than their rugby careers. You couldn’t but think of them on Saturday when Paul Merson was saluting Liverpool’s rear-guard ahead of their game against Leicester.

“They’re Ashford & Simpson at the back, Jeff,” he said.

Jeff Stelling’s face echoed our thoughts: “What?”

“Solid as a Rock!”

Ah, the seminal 1984 hit tune. The year Tommy Bowe was born. Time’s flying. It should be given a speeding ticket.

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