Thursday 14 December 2017

Rowe's sacrifices earn rich dividend as Girls in Green now focus their attentions on England

Ireland's Sarah Rowe with Mayo footballer Aidan O'Shea following her side's victory in the UEFA Women's U19 Championship Finals match against Spain. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Sarah Rowe with Mayo footballer Aidan O'Shea following her side's victory in the UEFA Women's U19 Championship Finals match against Spain. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

John Fallon

Ireland U-19 women's attacker Sarah Rowe is a busy girl these days as her boyfriend, Mayo GAA star Aidan O'Shea, can testify.

O'Shea may have another All-Ireland title quest occupying his time, but the other half of the couple is equally committed to her sport.

Such has been Rowe's devotion to a football career that has taken her within 90 minutes of a Euro semi-final, she's missed all of her beau's championship outings this season.

A brief window in the reigning All-Star's schedule enabled him to jet into Oslo on Tuesday and watch his girlfriend help Ireland shock Spain with a 1-0 victory.

That result gives Dave Connell's girls in green the initiative to emerge from Group B into next week's semi-finals.

Another victory tomorrow night against England in Mjondalen and they need not be concerned with the outcome of Monday's pool final game against Sweden.

Rowe has sacrificed plenty to realise her ambition of featuring on the most prestigious stage in European football for aspiring female footballers.

Her promising GAA career in the colours of Mayo ladies has, for one, been stalled until Ireland's participation in the finals ends.

She has even had to bring her books on international duties during the season in preparation for sitting the Leaving Certificate.

"I've been either training or playing matches six days a week since the start of the season," outlined the 19-year-old while sitting in the lobby of the team's Thon Hotel base in Lillestrom.

"My manager Dave Connell asked me to commit to Ireland for the season, which I was happy to do, as I love playing for my country. Of course, it meant I had to stop playing Gaelic for Mayo and impacted on my social life, but it was worthwhile.

"Aidan had a slight injury, so James Horan allowed him to travel out to Norway for the game on Tuesday.

"It was great to have my family and Aidan there and he knows how much playing for Ireland means to me.

"He may even come back out for the England game on Friday.

"I've not even had time to watch any of his championship matches with Mayo so far, but I intend getting to the All-Ireland quarter-final in August.

"Between the football and Leaving Cert, I've only had pockets of time available.

"For example, the Ireland squad was together for 10 days last month, then had two days off before assembling again for the Euros.

"Aidan came up to Dublin for our friendly against Norway a few weeks ago, so I got to see him afterwards. There's been not much time outside of that."

Rowe's dedication is mirrored by the squad of players manager Connell has shaped into one of only seven qualifiers at the showpiece alongside hosts Norway.

The anguish endured a year ago by Ireland's current front trio – Rowe, Katie McCabe and the goalscorer against Spain, Clare Shine – in being edged out by Sweden for a finals berth served to bolster their incentive.

"Losing that final qualifier to Sweden last year was the worst feeling I've experienced in my career," she admitted.

"We were good enough to reach those finals, but we got over it, and made sure we got there this time.

"England will be another tough game, but we've nothing to fear once we perform like we did against Spain."

After spending yesterday recovering from the previous night's exertions, Ireland will today crank up their preparation for the meeting with the Auld Enemy. Connell has no fresh injury concerns to contend with.

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