Long road ahead before reaching her goal

Unlike her rivals for the Fifa Puskás Award, James Rodriguez and Robin van Persie, Ireland’s Stephanie Roche will be taking the rocky road to Zurich for the prize-giving ceremony on Monday week.

Long road ahead  before reaching her goal

For, while private jets will transport the two World Cup stars to Switzerland, the first woman in history amongst the top three contenders for the coveted prize must take a nine-hour cross-country car trek from west France to sit alongside the duo at the glitzy bash. The circuitous route for Roche is required due to commitments for her club, ASPTT Albi.

Sitting in the FAI suite at Aviva Stadium yesterday, ahead of her return to France today, the 25-year-old outlined the limited options available to her given what the fixture schedule has thrown up.

“We’ve a game at 3pm on Sunday in Soyaux, which is the middle of nowhere, and there are no flights from there” she said.

“So it’s either travel directly by car and arrive in Zurich at 2am or come back with the squad to Albi, catch a flight from Toulouse to Amsterdam and then drive to Zurich.”

Publicity from worldwide television networks for her newly-promoted club ASPTT Albi has also been welcome and Roche gets noticed in the unlikeliest of settings as she goes about adapting to her new surrounds.

“I’ve been stopped in supermarkets in France and asked for selfies,” she recounts with a giggle. Learning the language has been the most difficult part of living in France but there’s a universal understanding of what a selfie is!”

Roche was in Dublin alongside Republic of Ireland Women’s manager Sue Ronan who named a 21 strong squad for the winter training camp in La Manga which will feature a match against Norway on January 15.

The squad includes five uncapped players including two members of the U19 team which reached the semi-finals of last year’s Uefa European U19 Championship – Raheny United’s Lauren Dwyer and Katie McCabe.

They are joined by Wexford Youths Women’s AFC striker Rhianna Jarrett, who has just returned playing college football from America, and her club colleague Carol Breen who was named Continental Tyres Women’s National League Player of the Month for October.

The fifth newcomer is English-based midfielder Emma Beckett who had spells at Watford, Fulham, Millwall, Charlton Athletic and Northampton.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM SQUAD Goalkeepers: Emma Byrne (Arsenal), Niamh Reid-Burke (Raheny United).

Defenders: Aine O’Gorman (UCD Waves), Louise Quinn (Elskilstuna United) Niamh Fahey (Chelsea), Megan Campbell (Florida State University), Sophie Perry (Brighton & Hove Albion), Lauren Dwyer (Raheny United).

Midfielders: Ciara Grant (UCD Waves), Rachel Graham (Raheny United), Carol Breen (Wexford Youths Women’s AFC), Diane Caldwell (Avaldsnes), Denise O’Sullivan (Glasgow City), Emma Beckett (Unattached).

Forwards: Julie Ann Russell (UCD Waves), Siobhan Killeen (Raheny United), Katie McCabe (Raheny United), Rianna Jarrett (Wexford Youths Women’s AFC), Fiona O’Sullivan (Notts County), Ruesha Littlejohn (Unattached), Stephanie Roche (ASPTT Albi)

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