FOOTBALL: Taking a break – The Big Interview with Galway’s Dearbhla Gower
By DARAGH SMALL (Dearbhla Gower pictured with her father David Gower)
Corofin has been home to the Andy Merrigan Cup on five occasions and despite coming from a family that isn’t steeped in usual sporting tradition, Dearbhla Gower grew up rubbing shoulders with some of the team that dominated the All-Ireland men’s club scene in recent years.
Gower, who has stepped away from the Galway set-up this year due to work commitments, was next door neighbours to Corofin stars Liam, Cathal, Darragh and Seán Silke.
“When I was really young, I was about eight or nine, I was playing with the lads, all my neighbours, I’m actually neighbours with Liam Silke and a lot of the Corofin men’s team,” said Gower.
“I was playing with the lads until I was about eight years old. But then I got annoyed as, apparently, I wasn’t allowed to play matches with them. So my poor Dad, to stop me from losing interest in it, sourced out an U-12 girls team for Corofin ladies. He just asked is there any chance I could train with them.
“The manager was lovely, she said she would try give me a little bit of game time, five minutes at the end.”
However, the Corofin U-12s only had 13 players that day so eight-year old Gower had to fill-in for the full slog. It was another rough introduction for the future TG4 All-Star nominee goalkeeper.
Eventually, she joined a more adequate age-group and her father, David, was asked to help out in training.
“The manager was struggling to get people to help, so he asked my dad because he was at every training session, dropping me and another girl to training,” said Gower.
“My dad joked, you know I’m English I don’t know the rules of the game. And your man, Bernie Glynn, was like: ‘as long as you can pick up cones, that’s all you need to be able to do.”
David Gower went from picking up cones to Corofin LGFA secretary and then registrar for an extended period before he eventually took up the post as chairman.
It was an unlikely journey to the top but Gower got there through great dedication to the club over a number of years, while his daughter was paving her way towards the Galway Ladies senior set-up.
Dearbhla Gower made the senior team and gradually became one of the best goalkeepers in the country – she was nominated for a TG4 All-Star last year, alongside Monica McGuirk of Meath and Dublin’s Ciara Trant.
But of course, it was McGuirk’s award after a famous year for the Royals while Gower was forced into a rethink of her Galway future, work and travel were making it impossible.
The 24-year-old is a veterinary nurse at Ark Vetcare in Kilmacud, and despite having to give up her inter-county ambitions for the time being she wanted to maintain football in some way.
“I have actually just transferred up to Kilmacud Crokes in Dublin,” said Gower.
“I graduated college in 2020 and obviously, no more than everyone in lockdown, no one knew what was happening. The only place to get jobs at the time was up in Dublin. All my friends are up here as well, we all got jobs here.
“I’m uprooting my life completely in Dublin then. I started my first year full-time working and all that craic. So, as with the Galway experience, it was difficult commuting. It was the exact same with the club. I absolutely love Corofin, I have played with them since I was eight. My dad has been so involved in the club too.
“But unfortunately, I had to make the decision last year because I wasn’t making training sessions and I wasn’t starting. Kilmacud were so lovely while I was playing with the county, if I couldn’t make it home they allowed me to train with them because I knew a few girls from college.
“So I made the decision at the start of the season to just transfer up with them. It was a tough one and I talked a lot through it with my dad and myself. At the time I think it’s the right call.
“I drive now but I don’t have a car. But at the time I didn’t drive so it was very difficult to commute. That’s obviously the reason why I couldn’t commit to Galway this year.”
The Galway ladies are going through their own period of transition with Maghnus Breathnach and Fiona Wynne at the helm this year, but they do have the Kilkerrin-Clonberne currentaccount.ie All-Ireland Senior Championship winners to come back in.
Gower definitely won’t be available in 2022 but she is determined to wear maroon again in future.
“I have been about a year and a half now graduated so I don’t know where my life will take me. It’s still unknown realistically,” said Gower.
“You know how things change all the time, job wise. The main issue, I would love to go back and I was saying it to Maghnus and the management and committee involved, if things change in the future, 100 percent.
“My dream would be to go back, to have a Galway jersey on my back again would be unbelievable. But this year, the commitment, and when you can’t fully commit there is no point in half-committing, you are not performing and dragging the team down.”
For now, being a pet lover and working with animals is the perfect existence for Gower. When she was still studying in her final year at UCD her housemates and she had a puppy, a blind old cat, new-born kittens that they had to feed in the middle of the night, and a pigeon.
But those days are over while she focuses on her career for now before potentially wearing a Galway jersey again soon.
For now, she will support her native county every step of the way, and she knows they won’t be far off in the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship this year.
“It was a good chance in the league for other girls to stand up and show themselves as well,” said Gower.
“I think a few younger girls stood up and a few girls who maybe have taken a break and have come back. It was a good opportunity for them.
“Obviously I’d say they’re disappointed with how the league went but no doubt they’ll learn from that. Last year only reaching the quarter-final in the championship, we were slightly disappointed with that as well considering we were finalists two years before.
“With all of those in mind they’ll learn from all those things and push on this year, hopefully. And I’ll be backing them every step of the way as well.”