Ireland's most productive rugby club selects Greatest XV
"They are named in folklore so to be held in the same regard is something surreal."
Tommy Bowe played two seasons with Queens University, from 2002 to 2004, and believes that proving ground helped kick his game on to the next level. On Tuesday, he gratefully accepted an invitation from his old club side and was happy to give a little something extra.
The former Ulster, Ireland and Lions star cut his teeth in senior rugby with Queens before he set off like a rocket for his province. 18 years after his first outing at 'The Dub', Bowe returned and was delighted to confirm his XV Kings company would be sitting proudly on the 2020/21 jersey as a sponsor.
In albeit uncertain times, the Belfast club held a launch night for the new season and a major topic of conversation was the all-time Queens XV that had recently been announced. As the most productive club in Ireland - for progressing players to Test level - Queens boasts 87 Ireland internationals and 21 that went on to represent the British & Irish Lions.
Selecting a best 15 from that crop, as well as some club legends that never lined out for Ireland, took some doing. To give you an idea of how tough the process was, the likes of Iain Henderson, Davy Irwin, Nigel Carr, Gareth Steenson, Gary Longwell and David Humphreys all missed out.
"It's an incredible honour there, to be presented with [my Best XV cap] by Trevor Ringland," says Bowe.
"He was such a hero and everyone talks to me, even now, about how Trevor Ringland and Keith Crossan were the best Ulster wingers of all time. Me and Trimby must be a very distant third, fourth or fifth!
"Speaking to my dad about his heroes, and the likes of Trevor and these guys, they're held in folklore. So to be named in a squad like that is kind of a bit surreal, to be honest with you."
Others present on the evening were Nigel Carr, David Humphreys and Trevor Ringland himself, who bumped Bowe to fullback by getting the vote for the No.14 jersey. Humphreys recalled his time at Queens University, whom he played for while he was studying to become a barrister.
"It was a release to come here and play rugby," says the Ulster and Ireland legend.
QUEENS' ALL-TIME XV
15. Tommy Bowe (British Lion 2009, 2013, Pro Rugby leading try scorer played all his rugby at full back for Queen's)
14. Trevor Ringland (British Lion 1983, Triple Crown winner 1982 & 1985)
13. Dick Milliken (Played all 4 tests for the 1974 British Lions Invincibles, Five Nations winner in 1973 & 1974)
12. David Hewitt (British Lion 1959 & 1962, made his Ireland debut at 18, made senior Ulster debut while captaining Ulster schools)
11. Cecil Pedlow (British Lion 1955, scored a try in the first test victory over South Africa)
10. Jack Kyle (British Lion 1950, won grand slam in 1948, Five Nations in 1949 & 1951, voted Ireland's greatest ever player in 2002)
9. Roger Young (British Lion in 1966 & 1968, made his Ulster debut while playing for Queen's 2nds)
1. Fuzzy Anderson (Only non Lion in the XV, was selected for the 1955 tour but had to pull out due to injury, 13 Ireland caps)
2. Ken Kennedy (British Lion in 1966 & 74 though was used as a medic more on the latter tour, was voted the world's best hooker at one stage)
3. Henry O'Hara O'Neill (British Lion 1930 the only prop to play for Queen's)
4. Blair Mayne (British Lion 1938 played in all three tests in South Africa, his off-field antics became Lions folklore)
5. Robin Thompson (British Lion 1955, captained the Lions in South Africa at 24, was banned from union a year later for defecting to rugby league)
6. Phil Matthews (British Lion 1989 v France, captained Ireland in the 1991 world cup, 1985 Triple Crown winner)
7. Robert Alexander (British Lion 1938, scored a try in the Lions 3rd test victory over South Africa, capped for Ireland at cricket)
8. Bill McKay (British Lion 1950, played in all 6 tests against All Blacks and Australia, 1948 grand slam winner, 1949 & '51 Five Nations winner)