Ulster Rugby’s Tommy Bowe opens up about mental pressures of sport

Pictured at the 'Tackle Your Feelings' event at Kingspan Stadium is Tommy Bowe of Ulster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions.
Pictured at the 'Tackle Your Feelings' event at Kingspan Stadium is Tommy Bowe of Ulster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions.

Ulster Rugby’s Tommy Bowe has opened up about the impact his rugby career has had on his mental wellbeing as part of a campaign.

The 32-year-old international rugby star shared his personal story at an event this week organised by the Irish Rugby Union Players’ Association (IRUPA) as part of its ‘Tackle Your Feelings’ campaign.

This is Tommy’s 13th season as a professional rugby player, and he said he has experienced a lot of highs and lows – from winning Grand Slams and starring for the British & Irish Lions, to lengthy spells on the sidelines through injury and being dropped due to poor form.

“It’s about keeping yourself on a level playing field,” he said.

“You can’t let yourself get too high when things are going well or get too low when you’re having a bad time.”

Tackle Your Feelings has been developed by IRUPA.

It sees provincial and international rugby stars share their struggles in the hope that it can help others going through hard times.

Following the event at Kingspan Stadium, Tommy said: “It was very encouraging to see so many people at the panel discussion.

“This campaign has touched so many people since it was launched earlier this year and I am really pleased that IRUPA have committed to helping the rugby community and beyond come together and learn how to tackle their feelings.

“I hope that in hearing stories from professional rugby players that anyone who is going through a tricky time can recognise that there are practical ways to move forward.”

At the event Tommy was joined on the panel by Ireland women’s player Hannah Tyrrell and Omar Hassanein, CEO of IRUPA.

Dr Eddie Murphy, Clinical Psychologist and Tackle Your Feelings advisor, also added to the discussion by providing practical advice as to how attendees can manage their mental wellbeing.

Omar Hassanein said, “The Tackle Your Feelings campaign is a really important element of the work that we are doing to help people improve their mental wellbeing and highlights some of the struggles that our rugby players experience as part of their everyday lives.”

As part of the Tackle Your Feelings campaign, Ireland and Leinster front-row Jack McGrath came forward earlier this year to speak about how he coped with the death of his brother by suicide in 2010, alongside Hannah Tyrrell, who talked about how she overcame her struggles with self-harm and bulimia.