Stephanie Roche proudest of winning rights battle

Not even sharing a shortlist with Colombian James Rodriguez in 2015 for her Puskas Award nomination gave Stephanie Roche more pride than helping her Irish women’s team succeed in their drive for basic conditions earlier this month.

Stephanie Roche proudest of winning rights battle

Roche’s wonder-goal for Peamount United and subsequent recognition by Fifa as one of the best goals of 2014 catapulted her into the most recognisable player on the Irish team.

She soon earned a move to Houston Dash in America and onto England, where she still plays for Sunderland in the top flight.

All of that adulation home and abroad took second place for Roche to the crusade she and the senior members of the squad undertook to eradicate the FAI’s policy of withdrawing their daily pocket-money allowance and requesting them to change out of their official tracksuits in public toilets after away trips.

Roche was up front and centre, alongside captain Emma Byrne, for the landmark press conference at Liberty Hall three weeks ago yesterday.

It was their last resort in seeking a dignified environment to operate in and one which they were vindicated in taking, as the FAI conceded to all their demands within 48 hours.

Speaking yesterday after her team were grouped with Norway, Netherlands, Slovakia, and Northern Ireland for the 2019 World Cup qualifiers, the 27-year-old compared the two achievements which brought her to national prominence. There was only winner in terms of which ranked highest.

“I’m very proud to have helped the squad with the protest,” she said.

“Getting nominated for the Puskas award was an incredible experience, but it was personal and I just got on with it afterwards. This was a team effort and will have long-last benefits for future generations of international players.

“All we were pushing for was the right structures, but the public support we received was incredible. We had been getting nowhere and needed the Players Football Association of Ireland (PFAI) to represent us. By the time we got back to the hotel after the press conference, the FAI had new tracksuits for us.

“We tried to keep the younger girls in the squad out of it, but from speaking to them and parents of the underage squads, they were delighted with the outcome. There’s a platform now for them.”

Now, the emphasis is back on delivering on the field. The quest to reach France in two years is Ireland’s latest attempt to reach a first-ever major tournament.

If they’re to claim the one automatic qualifying berth on offer in coach Colin Bell’s first campaign, Ireland must extract points from the top two, Norway and Netherlands, both of whom progressed to the Euros in July. Only four of the second-placed teams across seven groups clinch play-off spots.

Head coach Bell said: “The draw is something you can’t influence, but looking at it, it’s good for us, logistically. There will be a bit of travelling with Slovakia, but with the other nations, they’re all pretty close, which is great.

“It will be a great occasion to play Northern Ireland and it will create a great atmosphere when we play them at home and away, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Republic of Ireland WNT Fixture Schedule - FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup Qualifying 19 September, 2017:

Northern Ireland v Rep of Ireland 24 October, 2017: Slovakia v Ireland 28 November, 2017: Netherlands v Ireland 6 April, 2018: Ireland v Slovakia 10 April, 2018: Ireland v Netherlands 8 June, 2018: Ireland v Norway 12 June, 2018: Norway v Ireland 31 August, 2018: Ireland v Northern Ireland

Londis will host A Little Piece of Heaven, where participants can avail of refreshments.

See www.londis.ie

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