'It could be tomorrow I've to fly out or it could be three months from now' - Sarah Rowe making the best of Shels return
Sarah Rowe could barely contain her surprise when she was called in to train with Vera Pauw's home-based Irish squad just four days after making her return to the sport.
A 45-minute cameo from the bench in Saturday's FAI Cup quarter-final win - her first 11-a-side game in six years - impressed Pauw enough to call her in for Wednesday's session.
While Rowe wasn't named in the final squad of 22 to face Australia on September 21st, she took the chance to lean on the Dutch coach's knowledge and link up with her old underage boss Dave Connell.
"I was shocked to be honest. I really didn't expect to be called in at all. I couldn't believe it," the Ballina native tells Mirror Sport.
"It was great to be back. You want to play at the highest level possible, but I was surprised because I've been out of the game for so long.
"In my opinion, I've a lot of work to do to get to the levels and standards I hold myself to but It was great to have a chat with Vera.
"[We talked] about how it works, what way she sees it and what I need to do, and I got good feedback from her. I felt like I learned a lot and took a lot away."
Rowe divides her year between Australia, where she plays professional AFL with Collingwood, and Ireland, where she represents her county in Gaelic football.
She was part of the Mayo side beaten by Dublin in the 2017 All-Ireland final, and they were beaten by the same opposition at the semi-final stage this year.
The 26-year-old is already signed back with Collingwood for the 2022 season but, with much of Australia still in strict lockdown, she's unsure how quickly she will get back.
That uncertainty is to Shels' benefit, as the subtle coaxing of Shels captain Pearl Slattery, a teammate of Rowe's first time around, finally paid off.
"It's kind of been something I've always thought about and tried to work out. Pearl has gotten in touch with me a few times over the past two or three months.
"Ater we got knocked out with Mayo, she was like 'how long are you around for? Will you play?' I said I'd love to."
Slattery isn't the only familiar face in the Shels squad - she played with Rachel Graham, Ciara Grant and Noelle Murray, whose football intelligence Rowe describes as "unbelievable."
Another face she recognises - but not from soccer - is her new strike partner Saoirse Noonan, who scored the winner on Saturday, having faced her many times for Cork GAA.
How long that partnership is allowed to develop is dependent on word from Australia, but she hopes to stay around long enough to help the league leaders to a first title in five years.
"It's all a bit up in the air at the moment because we're waiting on getting exemptions from Australia and it's proving difficult at the moment because of they're in lockdown.
"I'm just waiting to get word. It was the same last year and I didn't end up getting out until January.
"It could be tomorrow morning I've to fly over, or it could be three months from now, I don't know. But I'm hoping to be around for as much of Shels as I can be."