In the eye of several storms, Sarah Rowe emits a natural calm.
First, there was a hasty, pandemic-triggered return from Australia. Now there’s a brewing cross-hemisphere ‘county v club’ tug-of-war and an administrative body: the Mayo ladies county board, in the midst of meltdown.
Rowe is totally unfazed by it all.
Which is why it comes as only a mild surprise when in the middle of a Zoom interview, the Mayo star reveals she is freshly qualified to practice hypnosis.
“It’s all about the subconscious mind and training our brains to think a certain way and to be a certain way I suppose, and habit warming and changing the way we think and look at things,” Rowe explains.
“Hypnosis is a lot about habit change; smokers, drinkers, all of that kind of stuff. I wanted to learn more about it.”
Rowe, 24, returned in March from a second season in Australia, statistically the highest-performing of the 18 Irish players in this year’s expanded AFLW.
It’s Kilmoremoy next on her list, then Mayo – All-Ireland semi-finalists last year and among the expected contenders in a revamped championship.
After that, Rowe – a former Republic of Ireland soccer international - knows an awkward conversation may be looming.
Mayo or Collingwood?
It appears that both is no longer an option. Or at least won’t be for 2021, according to Mayo’s current manager.
In May, Peter Leahy went public with an edict forbidding any player not part of the team’s preparations for next year from parachuting in mid-season, specifically referencing the AFLW’s four Mayo recruits; Rowe, Aileen Gilroy and sisters, Grace and Niamh Kelly.
“I kind of knew something like that was down the tracks,” Rowe admits now.
“I completely understand where he is coming from too. We go off and we play for a certain amount of time, we come back and come straight into the team.
“It’s just out of respect for the other girls as well. There was always going to be a time where there had to be a decision.
“For now, I’ll listen and we’ll talk it out. Whatever we decide to do…as long as we’re open and honest…that’s the main thing.”
The backdrop to all this is the LGFA making the dramatic decision last month to take management powers away from the Mayo ladies GAA board until an executive is restored following the resignation of ten members.
At a meeting in February, it was decided to refer their 2019 accounts to the Gardaí.
By contrast to all this tumult, the lifestyle of a semi-professional athlete in Melbourne seems particularly appealing.
The AFLW survived the Covid-19 crisis relatively unscathed and the fifth season of its existence will begin in February 2021.
The format will be unchanged. Player pay will be increased. And Rowe has also used her time in the semi-professional league to expand academic horizons.
Having completed a course studying life coaching, hypnosis and neuro linguistic programming (NLP), Rowe is now taking on clients.
“Along the process you learn a lot about yourself and so the three things clicked in with the other,” she explains.
“I felt like I nearly unlocked a secret.”
All of which was presumably useful in the scramble to get home in March, when Australia invoked an immediate and strict lockdown of its borders.
It helped, Rowe explains, that she’s “just not a panicker in general” though she admits that her parents “went through a lot of heartbreak along the way” after her initial flight home was cancelled.
The signing date for the 2021 season is between the 1st and 17th of August, meaning a decision about a return isn’t required for a few weeks yet.
In May, Leahy went on record saying: “There’s a reason why none of the Cork players go to Australia - because every time they put on a Cork jersey, they want to win everything and genuinely believe they can win everything.”
Rowe says she has no issue over the remarks.
“He’s my coach,” she points out. “I respect what he says and I’m there to listen and to learn.
“I’ll respect whatever decision he makes, and at the end of the day, whatever is best for Mayo is best for me.
“My loyalty to Mayo has always been to the forefront. I absolutely adore Mayo,” she adds.
“I want to play for Mayo until I can’t walk anymore.”