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'After 20 minutes, I got the curly finger': How Mayo star Rowe learned to deal with setbacks

In the final episode of our Life Changing Moments podcast series with UPMC – the Official Healthcare Partner of the GAA/GPA — the ladies’ footballer speaks openly about maturing, both as a player and a person.

WE’VE TEAMED UP with UPMC – Official Healthcare Partner of the GAA/GPA – to produce a brand new Life Changing Moments podcast series.

Over an eight-week period, legendary former GAA players have opened up about key performances that helped shape their illustrious careers and change their lives – on and off the pitch. 

SARAH ROWE HAS excelled at the top level of sport in a multitude of disciplines. 

The 25-year-old experienced lining out for the Mayo footballers in an All-Ireland final at Croke Park, having learned her trade with Kilmoremoy. 

A former soccer player with Castlebar Celtic and Shelbourne, Rowe represented the Republic of Ireland at senior international and underage level before deciding to focus on her inter-county career. 

And most recently, she has spent time Down Under — originally signing for AFLW side Collingwood in 2018 and recently agreeing a new two-season deal, although that could be in doubt due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In the final instalment of this podcast series, the Ballina native looks at how a setback in the 2016 Connacht final win over Galway at MacHale Park helped her to develop as player and a person. 

sarah-rowe Sarah Rowe in action for Mayo. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I’ve had a lot of good experiences in sport, but I think the times when things don’t go your way are sometimes the ones that teach you the most and help you to grow and learn,” Rowe told The42 GAA editor Fintan O’Toole.

“I was playing corner forward [that day] and thought I was doing alright, doing the basics well but not having a huge impact. After 20 minutes, I got the curly finger to be taken off and it was probably the first time I had ever been substituted for Mayo. 

“At the time, I was young and inexperienced so I didn’t know what was happening. Obviously, you learn very quickly — especially as we hadn’t even got to half-time. 

I remember going through the motions when we were in for the team talk, thinking ‘What did I do wrong?’.”

Mayo manger Frank Browne re-introduced Rowe later in the game — which they went on to win by 13 points — but she admits finding it difficult to focus. 

“The game went on and the girls started to play really well,” she adds. “In the second half, I was brought back on but my head wasn’t in it. I was trying too hard to be like ‘I’ll show you’. I was completely lost in the game.

“We ended up winning and I was delighted as it was a huge result for the team. Personally though, I was disappointed with myself. That taught me that I had to do an awful lot of reflection, and to ask for feedback.

“I went home and was sulking for a few days. I remember my mum saying ‘Sarah, I’m sorry now but enough is enough. It’s just a game of football so get over it’. The thing about sport is everyone sees the good days, but often there are more bad days than good. The older you get you learn to deal with that and cope better with situations.”

During the conversation, Sarah also picks out an Ireland U19 soccer international against Turkey back in 2014, when the Girls in Green secured qualification to the European Championships for the very first time.  

For the full interview, click the Soundcloud button at the top of the article or subscribe to The42 wherever you get your podcasts. You can also listen to all the previous episodes.

sarah-rowe Rowe has also represented Ireland in soccer. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

UPMC, Official Healthcare Partner of the GAA/GPA, has been providing expert healthcare in the South East since 2006. UPMC’s operations in Ireland include UPMC Whitfield Hospital in Waterford, UPMC Kildare Hospital in Clane, the UPMC Carlow Outreach Centre, UPMC Hillman Cancer Centre radiotherapy with locations at UPMC Whitfield and in Cork, and the UPMC Concussion Network. For more information on how UPMC provides life changing medicine to communities across Ireland, visit www.upmc.ie

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