Life

TV review: When to retire from professional sport is a first world concern

Tommy Bowe with former Republic of Ireland international Paul McGrath
Billy Foley

Tommy Bowe: The End Game, RTE 1, Monday at 9.35pm

The best line about sports retirement wasn't even from Tommy Bowe.

It was from Paul McGrath who revealed that he often wakes in the middle of the night and is desperate to find his boots, convinced that he's late for a match or training.

He's mighty relieved when he realises he's only dreaming, but it tells you something about the anxiety of a 58-year-old man who was famous, not only for his footballing prowess, but for going missing for key matches.

McGrath, who has 83 caps for the Republic, said his decision to retire came in one game, Sheffield Utd versus Ipswich in 1997. He played terribly and told the manager he was finished at the end of the game.

Other sports stars are less sure about when is the right time to call it a day.

And as well as explaining his own retirement, Bowe, who has 69 caps for Ireland and retired last month, set out to discover how other top sports stars managed the transition back to normal life.

AP McCoy, Dervla O'Rourke and former Tipperary hurler Conor Ryan all gave sound advice but overall the programme was not the strongest.

Undoubtedly, Bowe is a nice fella and there is a career in television for him, but The End Game was without rigour.

Key questions went unanswered. The first thing a rugby fan would ask a retired professional player is ‘how is the body?'

Bowe had numerous serious injuries in a 14 year career with Ulster, Ireland and the Ospreys. He played in excess of 300 professional matches in one of the most attritional sports. How's the body? Has he any restricted movement? Does it affect his life?

The other significant miss for The End Game was Bowe's feelings about trying to finish his career on a high while two of his team-mates were involved in a high profile rape trial.

I can understand entirely while Bowe wished to avoid it, but surely some reference could have been made to the turmoil in the dressing room, the protest at the ground following their acquittal and the effect on the team.

***

Journey In The Danger Zone: Iraq, BBC 2, Sunday at 7pm

Episode Two of Adnan Sarwar's journey through Iraq introduced us to Rawan, an incredibly brave campaigner from Babylon.

Rawan argues against the cultural and religious restrictions placed on women in Iraq and also for her home city, on the banks of the Euphrates River, to be reconnected to its cultural legacy.

Still at school, Rawan is shunned for not wearing a hijab and criticised for her liberal views.

As a viewer, I feared greatly for her safety and hope that the increasing of her profile through the arrival of a BBC television crew will protect her.

She had a typical teenage row with her mother on the necessity for people to stand up if Iraq is to change, versus change is impossible and you are making yourself a target.

I suspect the stakes were higher than in most parent/teenager rows.

Once more Sarwar, a former British soldier, who joined the 2003 invasion, was impressive.

His journey south brought us through Baghdad and onto the holy city of Karbala where there is an industry in providing for pilgrims.

Then it was on to Najaf where Shia Muslim believe that if you are buried you will go straight to heaven.

This means that the main business in Najaf is death.

Wasi Us Salaam is said to be the largest cemetery in the world, with more than five million graves and a celebrity gravedigger who even has its own sales jingle.

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