RTÉ’s rugby coverage would be worse without him for sure, but George Hook’s inability to give even grudging respect can really grate. He wasn’t exactly gracious in appreciation of Tommy Bowe’s two-try contribution to Saturday’s nailbiting victory at Twickenham. If only he was as quick to admit he was wrong as he’d like Bowe to be on his feet.
Ireland were out on theirs in the second half, the English pack’s physical superiority almost overwhelming. And when captain Brian O’Driscoll was helped off after almost being decapitated by Paul O’Connell’s patella, the game looked up for Declan Kidney’s brave but wilting warriors.
However, grit has rarely been as true as that witnessed in the final fifteen minutes as the greenshirts produced a brilliant backs-to-the-wall effort to deny the auld enemy a third successive Six Nations win. The tackle count – missing against France, whose hit ratio was twice ours in Paris – was massive in response to the coach’s “full tilt” ultimatum: 99 made, one missed. Enough said.
But, and there has to be one. And it’s a biggie. This is a pretty ugly and average English team who barely beat Italy a fortnight earlier; though the Azzurri are advancing as they showed in beating Scotland.
Ireland’s problems, particularly in the scrum, are still serious and will be exacerbated when John Hayes finally grinds to a halt. (Indeed, you’d think the Bull might be tempted to call time on his career after marking his 100th cap with the sort of mulish success that sums up what he stands for.)
In saying that, the side’s character, questioned after the France match when they suddenly looked like a team on a irreversible slide, remains resolute. Pride often comes to the fore after a fall.
Back to Bowe, son of Waterford man Paul, who was been consistently excellent for club, country and the Lions for the past few years. Hook, who for a long time insisted he wasn’t fast enough for international rugby, continued to damn the Monaghan man with faint praise after the game, saying he still isn’t convinced he has the speed to cut it at the highest level.
He mightn’t be Bryan Habana, but Bowe (a deceptive 6ft 3 and 16st 9) is strong and hugely courageous and his alacrity is all in the first 10 yards, wherein his anticipation and timing puts him in perfect position to finish too often for it to be a coincidence.
Rather than giving credit where it’s due, though, George described the 26-year-old’s match-winning moment of magic as merely a case of him ‘profiting from a training ground move’, and equated his emergence as a world-class winger to his transfer from Ulster to the Ospreys. As if his Welsh employers are exclusively responsible for Tommy making the most of his talent.
Sure when a rugby expert won’t call it straight, what can we expect from the likes of Kevin Myers?