Ulster and Ireland winger Tyrone Howe has announced that he will retire from rugby at the end of the current season.
The former Lion, who turns 35 next month, won the last of his Ireland caps against South Africa in June 2004, marking the occasion at Newlands with a try. Howe will be fondly remembered for his involvement in Girvan Dempsey's 51st-minute try which helped Ireland defeat England at Twickenham during the 2004 6 Nations.
The Newtownards-born flyer has been forced out of the Ulster team this season with James Topping, Tommy Bowe, Paul Steinmetz and Andrew Maxwell all fighting for the two wing berths. Howe has made four appearances as a replacement in the 2005/06 Celtic League, scoring a try in the 30-13 win over Llanelli in January. Howe has played 99 times for Ulster.
He has also aided his club Dungannon's cause, scoring four tries in the current AIB League Division One campaign.
A former pupil of Banbridge Academy and one of the longest-serving members of the Ulster squad, Howe, following his graduation from St Andrews University, made his debut for the province in the 1992/93 season against Munster. He pursued his education at Oxford University where he won a blue for rugby, playing twice in the annual Varsity match against Cambridge in 1994 and 1995 (as captain).
A chronic groin injury forced him out of the game for three years during which he took up a teaching post in England, and it was while playing for Division Three outfit Newbury in 1998 that then Ulster coach Harry Williams offered him a professional contract with the province.
How won the first of his Ireland caps on the 2000 summer tour, playing against the United States and he made his 6 Nations debut the following February against Italy. Arguably the high point of his career came in the summer of 2001 when he was called out to the British & Irish Lions squad in Australia as a replacement injured England winger Dan Luger. He won one cap as a Lion in the match against NSW Country.
...Tyrone Howe kicking ahead in his last outing for Ireland against South Africa...
His six Test tries for Ireland have come against Japan (2) and South Africa in 2000, Samoa (2001), and France and South Africa in 2004.
Current Ulster coach Mark McCall paid tribute to Howe, saying: "Tyrone is an extremely charismatic character and has been a hugely influential member of the Ulster squad for many years. His presence and contributions to the team, both on and off the field, were always positive and he will be very hard to replace. He always played with an incredible edge and had the ability to raise his game whenever it was needed.
"He will be hugely missed and on behalf of Ulster Rugby, the coaching staff, management team and the players, I would like to wish him every success for his future ahead."
The player himself, who got married last summer, is a qualified teacher and a fluent French and German speaker with a masters degree in Business Administration to boot. Howe said of his immediate career path: "I'm taking some time at the moment to review my options career-wise but at this point, I think that I'm probably going to hang my rugby boots up altogether at the end of the season.
"I think the injury problems I had early in my career and the enforced three-year break from the game mean that I have appreciated and really enjoyed the last six or seven years all the more, and I'm extremely grateful for all the fantastic experiences and opportunities that rugby has given me. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Ulster rugby public for not only their personal support and encouragement over the past 14 years but also for their unstinting support of the Ulster team as a whole."