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Mayo star Sarah Rowe: 'I'd love to see the club season start before the county season'

The Kilmoremoy forward sees an opportunity for change as she looks at Gaelic games through the Covid-19 pandemic.

MAYO LADIES FOOTBALL star Sarah Rowe says she would love to see the club season start before the inter-county season after the changes in 2020 due to the Covid-19 crisis.

lidl-girls-play-too-launch Sarah Rowe at the launch of 'Girls Play Too: Inspiring Stories Of Irish Sportswomen.' Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

Gaelic games came to a standstill in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with inter-county league competitions coming to a sudden halt.

The GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association prioritised the club game upon the restart, with grassroots action returning across the length and breadth of the country in July and the recommencement of inter-county football and hurling pushed out until late October.

And Rowe, who recently signed a new two-year contract with her Aussie Rules side Collingwood, is one of many who feel it’s been a huge success.

So much so that she’d love to see the club season start before the county season from here on out.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure,” she told The42 yesterday, discussing her return to club football. ”It’s been such a breath of fresh air. I can’t explain how much I’m enjoying it.

I feel with all of this there is so much opportunity for change. I’d love to see the club season start before the county season.

“It makes sense because you work really hard for your club and then county is a step up again, versus being finished with county and then going back into club and being tired and fatigued from the year with probably little motivation.

“This way, where club starts first and then goes into county, it’s lovely because it’s where you start, it’s where you’ll finish you get to give your club the time and energy and effort that it deserves.”

But not only is it better for the individual, it’s brilliant for the team — and the club as a whole. 

That’s something 25-year-old Rowe has witnessed in her own Kilmoremoy set-up.

“To have the county players and everyone at training at the moment, it’s something that is really important and it’s special for the group,” she continues.

It helps the younger girls. We’re talking about the grassroots up, for younger kids coming to training and having that ‘one club’ mentality has been really nice.

“Obviously we can’t go to games now, but all the senior girls had been going to all the minor games, U16 games, U14 games and really showing them younger girls that, ‘This is what you need, this is what you can do,’ just kind of having little conversations like that whereas I never remember having the time to go to all these games before. It’s precious.”

While playing the club season before inter-county campaign is something she feels strongly about, Rowe realises that it’s unlikely.

sarah-rowe-with-rachel-kearns Facing Galway in last year's All-Ireland semi-final. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Another alternative in the future, however, she says, could be training with county once-a-week and then being released to club for two weekly sessions, rather than all in with the former.

“I feel like I never get to train with club properly,” she explains. “Coming in at the back of the Mayo season, maybe you’re in training once a week and then you have a game, but you just don’t feel like…

Even though I’ve grown up playing with these girls, every year in every team you start from scratch. Always. You’re only as good as your last minute on the field and you’re only as good as your last training session.

“You constantly have to re-bond and build relationships every single year, regardless of if they know you or not, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like you always need to show your players that respect and that hard work and in order to do that, you have to be at training.

“That translates onto the pitch because that feeling of us all training together, working hard, one goal, ‘Let’s go for it,’ that really builds into the team.”

And again, Rowe can see that with Kilmoremoy: “We’ve went from junior to intermediate, we’re now in senior and this is probably been our most enjoyable year yet.

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“For me, it definitely has as well because I’m so involved and because everyone’s so involved. We’ve 30 at training every night. It’s amazing to see that. I do think it’s really important, and I think going forward, I’d love to see something like this continue.”

Having already alluded to the news that Irish sport must now be played behind closed doors until 13 September after a recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and a subsequent government announcement, Rowe is hopeful that a U-turn may be made.

That said, she is realistic, and weary of the danger of Covid-19.

“Well, I’d love for there to be crowds at games because there’s been such great atmosphere at all our games over the last two weeks, and it’s just been so nice for the girls to have that.

But at the moment, it’s hard for everything. Nothing is consistent. Everything is just so up and down all the time that nothing surprises me. I’m expecting the unexpected. Every day I’m like, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen today but sure look, we’ll see.’

“I think as a player, you just get so focused on the game itself that you actually do forget about anyone else outside it.

“Do I think the crowd adds that bit of anticipation and all that stuff? Yes. And I’d love to see something being worked out, even if it was only 50 people being at games that even your dad or your mum or whoever could go to the game.

“I love getting feedback off my dad after games or off my uncle. You’d love if even just close people could come to games, spread out and be five metres apart.”

lidl-girls-play-too-launch Rowe and Katie Mullan were on hand to launch Jacqui Hurley's book, 'Girls Play Too.' Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

And while she, like most, believes it’s impossible to predict how things will transpire for the remainder of the year, Rowe — a former Ireland soccer international — is optimistic that the club and inter-county championships will proceed as planned.

Many have cast serious doubts over the future of the 2020 inter-county championships in particular, but Rowe is trying to remain positive and hopeful, as she takes things day by day.

“I’m nearly receptive to change at the moment because it’s happening so often and every day is so different at the minute,” she concludes.

“I would love to see club football finish and obviously get to play county but at the same time, I’m kind of exploring all the avenues in my head. I’m thinking long term, but at the same time, I’m just trying to live every day as it comes.

“I’m also thinking, ‘Okay, what do I do if this doesn’t happen?’ If, for instance, Australia doesn’t go ahead, what do I do? I’m just staying really positive and hoping that we can finish. You just don’t want it to be taken away from you again.”

***

Lidl Ireland celebrates the launch of ‘Girls Play Too: Inspiring Stories Of Irish Sportswomen’, the first ever collection of stories about Ireland’s most accomplished sportswomen. The book is available exclusively in all Lidl stores across the island of Ireland from Thursday, 20 August to Sunday, 6 September. 

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Emma Duffy

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