'Four in a Rowe' is not on Carla's Dublin radar

Her manager felt it would never happen, but Dublin star now revels in a bonus year

BONUS TERRITORY: Carla Rowe in action against Waterford during their Round 2 match in the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Ladies’ Football Championship. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Frank Roche

This is, according to Carla Rowe, more like a "bonus" championship. The championship many assumed might never get off the ground - so much so that her manager, Mick Bohan, openly questioned more than once whether it should happen at all.

But now Dublin find themselves an hour away from another TG4 All-Ireland ladies' senior football final. Armagh stand in their semi-final path at Semple Stadium this Saturday (4.30).

Back in May, at a time when vaccines were a long way off, Bohan suggested that the 2020 championship should be scrapped.

"It hurts me to say it, because it's the elephant in the room," he told 2FM's Game On … but this was "the brave call", he concluded, from the point of view of releasing pressure on everybody.

By late August, Bohan was again talking about "incredible pressure" - the type an inter-county footballer might feel within sight of an All-Ireland if he or she suddenly started feeling unwell.

"Are you going to shout that out and actually tell everybody?" he wondered aloud, while admitting he was "astounded" by the prospect of squeezing an All-Ireland championship into the end-of-year winter months.


And yet here we are. Bohan and his band of champions are still on the march, closing in on a tantalising four-in-a-row.

"With Mick, he always puts us first and he's always thinking about players," says Rowe, the Lidl One Good Club ambassador, as she reflects on his earlier scepticism about defending their crown in the year of Covid. "And, as much as he would have loved to go out and play football, he couldn't be putting pressure on players.

"You never know what people's circumstances are. You don't know who has mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grannies, people who are in really vulnerable positions … and to be saying, 'Well, we're going training and if you're not able to train you're not able to play' wasn't an option. So Mick made sure he spoke to the team and put us first.

"It is a little bit difficult and, for me, it was a thought that had to come into my head. I've an elderly 'Nana', so it was something you had to think about. You just have to be careful.

"But we're kind of used to it now, making sure we're taking every precaution, that any exposure with Dublin is minimised. And the only time really that you'd feel like you're exposed is actually when you're playing a match and the rate - I think - of Covid reoccurrence through matches is minimal. So I think we're doing okay on that front so far."

All of which brings us to her belief that this delayed and abbreviated championship is "more of a bonus"  than a mounting source of pressure.

"We're not thinking about four-in-a-row," she insists, after months of thinking there might be no football at all. "Right now, we're just happy to be able to play."

Rowe was in her second year as a senior starter when Dublin last met Armagh in the championship, winning their semi-final by 11 points with the help of a 0-4 haul from their Naul sharpshooter. But that was five years ago; today they are something of an unknown quantity.

"Ourselves and Cork, we know each other well, and you can do your homework and you have some key player notes already," the 25-year-old says, while quick to rubbish any suggestions of taking Armagh for granted.


"They're a very, very strong team; beat a very good Mayo side," she warns. "In no way will any complacency set in."

Besides, Dublin's form in their mini round-robin group - beating Donegal by 2-13 to 2-10 in a must-win opener and Waterford by 0-17 to 1-10 - wasn't exactly rampaging while their Ulster opponents amassed ten goals against Tyrone and Mayo.

It might have been even closer against Donegal but for that surreal second half goal from Sinead Aherne: only YouTube can do justice to the trajectory of a point attempt that hit the upright, dropped into the square and eventually spun into the net via the underside of the crossbar.

"I've never seen anything like that in my life," Rowe admits. "Maybe there's your bit of luck that comes your way. Donegal got going early in the second half - something we need to look at going forward, we need to make sure we're awake and on our toes.

"We probably were lucky that settled us a little bit. As in, we were completely lucky! It was a freak goal. But once that happened, I think we got a grasp of it."

A grasp they have no intention of loosening.