Sarah Rowe started playing football at national school, and she loved the game from the very beginning. She joined the Mayo development squads at the age of ten playing for the county under 12 team, since then playing for the Mayo senior teams was a burning ambition. Sarah joined the senior panel to train when she was fifteen and made her debut a year later. Now one of the most recognisable players in Ladies football, her enthusiasm for the game she loves is clear to see.
Sarah has a strong family background in Gaelic games. Her grandad Paddy Jordan was on the last Mayo team to win the Sam Maguire so the quest for an All Ireland is in the blood. Her other grandad John Rowe played in an All Ireland minor final, both strong connections in sport that she is very proud of as she makes her own way with football-mad Mayo.
Sarah joined the Mayo panel to train at fifteen years of age, and the experience was vital even though it was a year before her senior debut. On coming in at a young age she says:
“I was happy to be in at a young age, because my values of work and what didn’t work were established from a young age. These were established from watching the older players train and learning from them, playing from a young age was something I always wanted to do, I was coming in early and certainly it worked for me. I agree with players coming in early, you’re shown a lot of tough love in sport and you have to manage yourself and there are values you bring across to every aspect of your life so I think its good to get girls in early and get them trained up. Obviously with certain aspects of the game modified like gym work etc.
“Some people might disagree but it worked for me. Some people might disagree and think there is a danger of girls losing interest by the age of 14 or 15 but if you really love it you won’t lose interest and we want to keep players involved. It’s about timing too, if you’re part of a good set up and a good team then people will want to stay involved and keep playing.”
Sarah also sees the value in the increased interest in the game and the wider profile it has gained in recent years.
“You see with LIDL coming on board how much they raised the profile of the game and girls were suddenly getting recognised for the amount of time they were putting in. There seemed to be a bit more respect around the place and there were more people watching the game and they realised that it was of a good quality. The standard has improved with more sponsors getting on board and people are putting more effort in. It’s good that young girls have role models to look up to – when I was growing up you would have heard of one or two players like Diane O’Hora because she was from Ballina but you wouldn’t have heard as much about other players as there wasn’t as much exposure and marketing as there is now.
“There seems to be a lot more of that which helps young girls get involved and with the All Ireland final with 46,000 people at it, Ladies football is probably the most popular women’s sport in Ireland and the most appealing game for girls.”