by Daragh Ó Conchúir
Mayo forward Sarah Rowe will play professional sport in Australia next year after signing a five-month, one season contract with AFLW side Collingwood but has reaffirmed her commitment TO playing ladies football with her county.
Rowe is following in the footsteps of long-time teammate Cora Staunton, who became the first LGFA recruit to play in the AFLW when creating a significant impression with GWS Giants.
Former Cavan player Laura Duryea (née Corrigan) was the first Irish player to perform in the league in its inaugural season in 2017, when she was drafted by Melbourne, but she had been living in Australia for a number of years and playing Aussie rules at amateur level.
The offer to Rowe comes as a result of significant interest in the Kilmoremoy sharpshooter and the Pies were one of six clubs visited by the 23-year-old during a whistle stop tour after Mayo's defeat by Dublin in the National League Final in April.
"I'm really looking forward to it" said Rowe. "But I remain fully committed to Mayo and will be as involved as I can before I leave and when I'm home. And the way the season runs in Australia, I will be back before the end of the league and fully focussed on trying to win an All-Ireland with the county."
Aussie rules is the third sport the multi-talented Rowe will be playing at the highest level, having lined out in last year's All-Ireland Final for Mayo and also played international soccer for the Republic of Ireland.
She was very keen on pursuing this opportunity once initial contact was made just after last year's All-Ireland final.
Rowe travelled to Australia with her father Alan last April, visiting Collingwood, Carlton, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Geelong and North Melbourne.
She created a significant impression but admits she has a lot to learn, not just in terms of the skills but the very different game play that will be involved. She is currently rehabbing after having surgery on a shoulder injury.
"I dislocated my shoulder in January but never got the operation because I would have missed the season for Mayo and I didn't want to do that so I just tried to manage it, but it was never right.
"So I had the operation once the season ended and am in recovery at the moment but I will start practising ASAP once I'm able to. I'm just rehabbing every day at the minute. Once I am right, I will start learning the skills and watching more games."
Rowe will arrive for pre-season training on November 1 but will be allowed home for a 12-day break at Christmas, though she will use that to touch base with Mayo.
"I'll have three months training done before the league starts and then the competition itself lasts two months. It is a great opportunity and I want to grasp it, I can't wait.
"But I won't be turning my back on Mayo. I'll be home near the end of the league in Ireland so it works out pretty well.
"I'll be at home at Christmas for 12 days and will touch base with Mayo then. I will be in the loop the whole time I'm away. It's working out really well and I'm lucky that is the case."
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