Carla Rowe: None Of Us Were Willing To Listen To People Saying That It Was The Year Of Rebuilding.


Dublin captain Carla Rowe and the rest of the experienced members of the squad weren’t willing to let Dublin’s high standards drop despite the exodus of a large contingent of players

In attendance at the 2023 TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Championship Finals Captains Day is Carla Rowe of Dublin at Croke Park in Dublin.
In attendance at the 2023 TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Championship Finals Captains Day is Carla Rowe of Dublin at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Dublin Captain Carla Rowe sets high standards for herself and those around her, she’s not the only one in the Dublin panel with those high standards.

After securing a four in a row of All Ireland titles the last two years haven’t been as fruitful, a loss to Meath in 2021 and an early exit at the quarter final stage last season at the hands of Donegal have been difficult to take.

A mass exodus of players from the panel before the start of this season were replaced by a raft of young, inexperienced players and Carla Rowe and the remaining stalwarts in the squad could have been forgiven for thinking cycle at the top was over and they mightn’t win an All Ireland again.

But Carla and the rest of the experienced heads in the squad weren’t willing to go quietly into the night and weren’t willing to let the high standards Dublin set themselves drop. Although she did admit the thought of not winning another All Ireland title did cross her mind.

“You can’t say it doesn’t cross your mind when you’re looking at a list of names that have left a panel and you’re looking at how do you replace the Lindsay Davey’s and Siobhan McGrath’s and all these other girls like the Ciara Trant’s that were leaving, so yes i can’t lie and say that it didn’t.

“But the other side of it was none of us were willing to listen to the critics or listen to people saying that it was the year of rebuilding. We knew that for us, we want to achieve in All Ireland finals, that’s where we set the standards for Dublin and we didn’t want that standard to drop.

“So that was what we went out chasing at the start of the year and did we think it was possible? We didn’t know, but if we gave it one hundred percent and we worked harder than we’ve ever worked before, we thought that it could be possible and here we are today.”

Although Carla and the rest of the senior players weren’t willing to listen to critics in the press talk about Dublin going through a period of transition, Carla admitted that type of talk took the pressure of the whole squad and allowed them to slip under the radar a little, tick along with less scrutiny which allowed the younger girls to settle into the side.

“To be honest it probably wasn’t actually too critical. It was probably fair because when you take those names as I said on a sheet that’s what anyone would look at and that would be your expectation.

“But as I said for the older girls we definitely knew that’s not where we wanted to be, but it definitely took pressure off all of us, off the whole Dublin squad, we could kinda go under the radar and we ticked along nicely, we weren’t outstanding at any point of the league and even the early part of the championship, but we gradually were improving and that probably did help us a little bit.”

For Dublin Captain Carla Rowe the turning point of the season was the quarter final win over Donegal, but she also admitted that after a difficult start to the year Dublin’s form went through a gradual upward curve from game to game.

“I think it was a gradual incline. We put in so much work this year and in-fairness to the management team they did not take a step backwards when after 2022 you could have, it was like leaps forward, the amount of work they put in has been phenomenal and the team followed suit with that and I think it was a gradual incline.

“But definitely the Donegal game was probably that one where there was a lot of tension, there was a lot of nerves and then we wanted to just, not make up for, but we didn’t perform in 2022 against Donegal so we wanted to right that wrong in terms of performance and I think that was the point probably where we started really, really believing that this Dublin team has the the bits inside that’s needed to get you over the line.”

Looking at the performances against Donegal and then Cork in the semi final Dublin look to have peaked at the right time, Carla hopes that continues to happen but also admitted that everyone involved also have to be critical and not sit on the laurels and learn the lessons from areas they haven’t been too pleased with in their games to date.

“Yeah definitely and we’d love if that was what continues to happen and we are really happy with that, we are happy with a lot of our play on the pitch, but you also have to be critical.

“There’s loads of areas where we need to learn from, from the Donegal game, from the Cork game, but we’re definitely going in the right direction. And we’d hope that continues into Sunday.”

Besides the results over the previous two seasons it’s also been a difficult time for Carla on the injury front with niggly injuries forcing her to miss a number of games in 2021 and 2022. This year thankfully Carla has enjoyed and injury free season and expressed she was over the moon finally enjoying an uninterrupted run in the side this season and puts her injury free run down to getting a good preseason under her belt.

“Yeah, one hundred percent over the moon with that. I wasn’t sure if that was what I was going to be looking at dealing with for the rest of my career when I’d never had any injuries.

“Look what I think was missing was, I got injured preseason and I never got a good preseason block under me, and that just came back around to bite me and that’s what happens, I think, when you miss out on those preseason blocks, it’s really, really important for your longevity during the season. So i got a really good hard preseason under my belt this year. And thankfully, that stood me.”

The atmosphere and noise on All Ireland final day can really catch a player off guard if they haven’t experienced it before, Carla is a veteran of multiple finals, a number of the team on Sunday will be experiencing their first final and nerves are sure to be a factor, while there are some things that they can control, there other things that they can’t, but Carla says they always try to prepare for those as best they can and the senior players will chat to the younger ones and pass on their experiences of handling the occasion.

“Yeah there’s stuff we can control, and there’s stuff we can’t control. So some of that, we can’t control, but we can always try and prepare for, so, you know, we’re preparing for that in training, we’re preparing, and we’re talking about the situations that can happen during meetings.

“So there’s that part, and then there’s the stuff on the pitch where, for me, even as a young girl, it was always just to take it in and really relish in that moment, how privileged, how lucky you are and this is what you do, this is why you trained, these are the moments that you dream of as a child. And so some of that we will be passing on to the girls.

“But people deal with it differently. So, you know, as I said, we’ve lots of experience in there, how I might deal with something might be different to how Martha Byrne or Leah Caffrey might deal with it. So we can share our experiences and we can chat to the younger girls.

“There was a huge crowd in the Donegal game and was really noisy, it was really loud because obviously they had great support up there. So I think that was a good experience that will stand to us.”

Dublin have faced tomorrow’s opponents Kerry twice this year already in the league and championship, Carla rates Kerry highly but hopes the learnings from those previous meetings will stand to the team in the All Ireland final.

“Yeah, we think Kerry are really good team. As I said, they were in the All Ireland final last year so they definitely have that one, up in Tralee that game was one that you’d wanna say you learn from, if you don’t learn from it then you’re being very, very naive.

“So we didn’t perform on the night, but we went off and we learned from that and you could see those learnings in our 2nd game.

“And I suppose we hadn’t had much exposure to Kerry. You kinda the more you get to play a team, the more you learn from them. So it’s great to have those two games under our belt and the Parnell Park game was a really close encounter.

“It was a brilliant game of football. It was a physical, fast moving game of football and one which we’ll just have to take our key points from and bring into Sunday’s final.”