Already on the fringes of the Republic of Ireland's senior squad, Sarah Rowe is hoping to use her side's historic run in Norway as a springboard for both her own success and women's football as a whole back home.
“It's amazing to think we're out here, for the first time ever, and we've got so far," the Castlebar Celtic FC winger said, with back-to-back victories over Spain and England leaving Ireland on the verge of the semi-finals. "It's still about taking one game at a time but we're all thinking about our own futures and aspirations. I really hope this tournament helps put me in the minds of the senior coaches. All of us are thinking of our futures, and helping to improve the women's game in Ireland at the same time."
Rowe was called up to the A-team for an unofficial friendly against the Basque Country in May and her experience in Bilbao gave her a flavour of the demands at senior level. It almost did not happen, though. "I nearly didn't go," she said. "It was a week before an important exam at school and I knew I would have to cram some revision in while I was out there when I really wanted the full experience of being on duty. I decided it was too good a chance to turn down, though, and accepted the call up.
"I went over my revision notes in my head a lot though, at breakfast, on the flight. Training was a welcome break. It was amazing to be out there. This is a fantastic experience, too, to be away from home for so long. It would mean everything to us to be able to progress." A point against Sweden on Monday would guarantee that.
The positive start at the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship has been a milestone for women's football in the Republic of Ireland. "Beating Spain reminded people back home that we're doing this, that we're out here. I don't think many people would have paid attention, or even known the tournament was something we were involved in, if we hadn't. It's tough, but you have to make people sit up and notice you at this level."
Rowe and her team-mates are certainly doing that in Norway. On Monday evening they could be making headlines again.
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