Dublin’s late developer Carla Rowe proving that anything is possible
You'd never think watching Carla Rowe in action for the Dublin ladies footballers that she only discovered the game for the first time at the relatively late age of 13.
Certainly not when you consider that Rowe won an All-Ireland minor medal in 2012 and was player-of-the-match a year later despite finishing on the losing side to Galway. Rowe, 21, produced one of the greatest individual performances of modern times in the U18 grade, shooting 0-11, but Galway won a thrilling replay.
Rowe was visibly devastated as she accepted the individual award from then Ladies Gaelic Football Association President Pat Quill but she put that disappointment to one side and went on collect All-Ireland U21 medals in 2014, 2015 and again this year. Now Rowe is hopeful that she can complete the set when Dublin face off against Cork in the TG4 All-Ireland senior final on September 25.
Rowe’s two previous senior final appearances have left the Clann Mhuire player with only tears for souvenirs but opportunity knocks again as Dublin prepare to lock horns with the all-conquering Rebelettes in the Brendan Martin Cup decider for a third successive year. Rowe is just one of a host of rising young Dublin stars who will feel that now is the time to knock Cork off their perch but irrespective of the result at Croke Park, a long and distinguished career lies in store for a player who’s already achieved so much.
She says: “It’s great to have the experiences we’ve had and still be only 21.
“We have so many years ahead of us. (Mayo’s) Cora Staunton made her senior debut when we were born so it’s great to know that that’s a possibility for us!”
Rowe made her senior debut in 2014 but had become acquainted with the elite set-up well before that, having linked up with the squad during her final year as a minor. That prepared Rowe for the experience of sharing a dressing room with a host of already established Dublin senior stars and she wasted little time in nailing down a regular place in the starting team. A pacey half-forward who can also operate in a defensive role, Rowe has been scoring consistently throughout the 2016 championship.
In the Leinster campaign, she opened her account with 0-3 against Westmeath before following that up with 1-3 in the comprehensive victory over Meath, and 1-2 when Dublin beat Westmeath again, this time in the provincial decider. Rowe chipped in with another three points when Dublin saw off Donegal in the TG4 All-Ireland quarter-final and when the Sky Blues squeezed past Mayo by just a single point in an epic semi-final, she chipped in with a crucial score before being substituted after emptying the tank for the cause.
Sinéad Aherne was Dublin’s match-winner, landing a last-gasp free from a tight angle but Rowe, who’s watched her team-mate practicing her kicking on many occasions, was never in any doubt. Rowe smiled: “I’ve seen her shoot them so many times at training and she’s stayed back after training a number of times.
“From her free-taking previously, it was a nice angle for a right-footed player. It was a good bit out distance wise but she was comfortable in that position.”
Rowe, while conceding that she can still work on her left foot, is a fluent, graceful player intent on maximising her ability. Bearing in mind that she’s something of a late developer, there’s surely something innate about Rowe’s talent but she’s also worked extremely hard to make the grade. Rowe discovered the game when she moved from Lusk to the village of Naul, Fingal. Quickly realising that other girls her age played with the local team, Rowe soon followed suit.
She says: “On a Tuesday evening, they were all disappearing so I decided to go with them. That’s where it started. I played for three years and went up for Dublin trials. That’s where it all took off and it’s continued from there.”
Rowe barely realised that Dublin inter-county teams existed before trying out for the U16s. Rowe adds: “It was quite late but it’s nice sometimes because I always say to kids training that even if you start at 16 or 17, it’s never too late and to make sure that you keep pushing on and you can get to where you want to.”
Rowe was so determined to succeed that when she first took up the game, she’d run around the garden at home repeatedly until she mastered the art of the solo.
“I was always very competitive,” she says. “I didn’t quite like it that there were other girls able to do stuff and I wasn’t. I worked quite hard at it to get it. It might have come quite quickly to me but I’m still learning and I still have to work on my left foot!
“I played Olympic handball in primary school but that was about it and that’s completely different to Gaelic. I don’t really remember how I was at the start, I think I would have been fairly rubbish considering I’d never done it before! But I’m a quick learner and so I picked it up.”
Rowe’s never looked back and if Dublin can claim just their second All-Ireland senior crown, it will represent the greatest day of her career to date. In 2015, Rowe’s consistent displays saw her earn a very first All-Star award and it was also a year that saw her captain the Dublin U21s to All-Ireland glory. Off the field, Rowe was a Sky Sports Living for Sport athlete mentor this year and she’s also preparing for her final year at Dundalk IT, where she’s studying Health and Physical Activity.
Clearly an ambitious player, Rowe is refusing to entertain negative thoughts ahead of Dublin’s latest September assignment with Cork. And so, rather than detach from what lies in store, Rowe is determined to ride the crest of a wave. She insists: “I embrace it. I think it’s nice to know that you’re after working and committing so hard all year and this is where you’re meant to be. Why hide away from it?
“It might never happen again so you have to make sure that when you’re there, you enjoy it.
“Cork are a very good team but the losses push you on.
“You put them in the back of your head but they’re still there and they make you more determined not to experience that feeling again.
“We just hope the experience we have over the last two years helps us a little bit this time.”
Show your #SeriousSupport at the TG4 Ladies All-Ireland Football Championship Final on September 25th in Croke Park. Get your tickets here!