AFLW star Sarah Rowe admits she is doing everything in her power to reach her full potential in soccer after returning home to sign for Bohemians last week.
The 27-year-old remained coy when asked about her chances of forcing her way into Vera Pauw’s World Cup squad, with the Ireland boss previously stating the door was open for her if she committed to soccer.
She made her Bohs debut in last weekend’s win over Treaty United. Rowe reveals she’s currently training six days a week with some double sessions, but insists she’s focused on the short-term, rather than Ireland’s first major tournament this summer.
“I’m doing everything I can to reach my potential (in soccer),” said Rowe, in her first media appearance since signing for Bohs ahead of their Dalymount clash with Shelbourne tomorrow (3.0).
“I feel like there’s been a narrative created around it (World Cup). I have enjoyed going back to a sport I love and I’m really passionate about. For me, it’s about working hard every day, focusing on Bohs and focusing on my training. I don’t think any further than today and tomorrow to be honest.”
Rowe joined Melbourne Victory last January, but with the A-League Women’s season concluding in April and Collingwood not returning to AFLW action until later this year, the Mayo native opted to return home and will hope to be included in Ireland’s next camp in April. Pauw is currently monitoring two new players who could be called up and Rowe admits her move to the Phibsboro club was a bit of a whirlwind.
“I didn’t want to be left without football. My thoughts were to come home to play in Ireland,” added Rowe, who said she has been enjoying playing as an attacking right-back with Victory.
“But when I made the enquiry, I realised that the transfer window was closing in 48 hours so I had to make a decision pretty quickly. It’s great to come home to a fan-owned club like Bohs. It feels like a bit of a GAA club in one way.
“I could see they were an up-and-coming club, really invested in the women’s side and training in DCU. They were even at the airport to meet me. You can feel the support of the club.”
Rowe was part of the Ireland U-19 side who reached the 2014 European Championship semi-finals in 2014 with current internationals like Katie McCabe and Amber Barrett, while she earned a senior cap the following year.
A league and cup double with Shelbourne followed in 2016 before she signed for AFLW side Collingwood in 2018, where she has played since. Rowe has made no secret of her desire to line out for Ireland again, and was called into a home-based training squad in September 2021.
“Yeah, definitely,” Rowe replied when asked if she had unfinished business with soccer. “I have always wanted to go back but you get caught up in your world in Australia. I was just, ‘How am I going to find the time.’ I didn’t want to up and leave Collingwood as well. It felt like the perfect opportunity this year because our season dates had changed. I was plotting that in my head, because the dates aligned.”
Rowe remains under contract with Collingwood for the 2023 AFLW season. Although there is no start date announced yet for the new season, she says the Melbourne side were very supportive of her decision and will be in constant contact throughout her time in the Women’s Premier Division.
“It’s trying to recreate what you do in a professional environment in Ireland,” said Rowe, who also played under Bohs boss Seán Byrne at Raheny. “I train with the boys on the FÁS course two or three times a week, I do extra one-on-one sessions and then train with the girls as well. I try to recreate the load that I was doing in Australia.
“You have such a long off-season (in Australia), six months essentially. Collingwood have been extremely supportive. I felt I was getting better with each game in Australia. It’s about getting as many games under your belt to get to the level required.”
Rowe also lauded the progress the domestic league has made in recent years, and believes having Ireland at this summer’s finals in Australia and New Zealand will encourage the next generation to take up the game.
“The promotion of the game is so much better over the last few years,” she added, after she also had a brief spell with Shels in 2021.
“Even just finding information on games, going on Twitter and the games being televised more. Coming into Bohs now, it’s like a different club to where I’d been before. The analysis side of things pre-and post-game wasn’t there two years ago. The gym and added elements of training, it has drastically improved in the last two years. With new teams coming in too, it will only help for the competitive nature of the league.
“It’s incredible to see what the (Ireland) girls have done. It’s amazing how excited all the Irish people are by what they have achieved. It’s amazing just to see the reward for how hard the girls have worked for the last couple of years to get there. It’s great for young girls growing up as well because it does really leave a pathway for them to get involved in soccer, and for the league to grow as well.”