Republic of Ireland striker Stephanie Roche is hoping her winning goal against Switzerland at the Cyprus Cup yesterday will be the beginning of a hot streak.
The Republic's women's team face into tomorrow’s play-off for fifth and sixth place against 2015 FIFA World Cup hosts Canada at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia.
When the Peamount United star scored her first goal of the 2013-14 Bus Éireann Women’s National League season last October it sparked a flurry of goals and she has now netted 18 for her club.
Fifteen of those have come in the league, and she hopes that the goals will now start flowing at international level after getting her first goal for Ireland since she scored against Kazakhstan in 2009.
While her spectacular first goal of the season became a YouTube sensation attracting 2.4million hits, her most recent effort was a modest tap-in from six metres but it was just as important for Roche as it was her first goal in 20 games under Sue Ronan.
Stephanie said: “I scored on my debut against Kazakhstan in the last minute in a qualifier. That was my first one and that might have been the most important but I was delighted to get a goal. The last time I scored was against Kazakhstan away when Noel was in charge so I was delighted to get my first one for Sue and I am trying to get a few more if I can.”
Roche was introduced as a 73rd minute substitute for Fiona O’Sullivan and Ronan told her before she went on the pitch that she thought there was a goal in her.
Roche said: “She just told me it was going to be a little more different to South Korea. I did a lot of running in that game so she said it was a chance to do what I am good at and try maybe to get a goal so when I went on I tried to be in good positions and it worked out in the end.
“Ruesha Littlejohn did most of the work for me. It was a bad kick-out by the keeper but it was a good first touch by Ruesha and as the keeper came out she squared it to me before the defender got to me and I was just happy enough to stay onside and score.
“When they equalised I was devastated. I thought it was New Zealand and South Korea all over again, so it was great to get the win after two draws and feeling a little bit hard done by in the last two games. It really was great to finally get a win.”
The Cyprus Cup is part of the team’s preparations for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers at home to Germany in April and Russia in May and Roche believes the squad are preparing properly for those games.
She said: “That is obviously what we have been building up for and La Manga where we played Holland and England was good preparation for us. We lost 3-0 to Holland but we only lost 1-0 to England and we were unlucky and in all the games we have been playing since we have been progressing and progressing until we got a win against Switzerland."
Stephanie is hoping the team can something against Canada tomorrow and keep on improving when they play Germany and Russia.
She said: "We have played three tough teams here in Cyprus. New Zealand were big and strong and a bit like what Germany and Russia are going to be for us. South Korea were obviously a different a challenge because they are small and nippy but we worked hard in both games and we got some really good results.
"It is a good sign that we are progressing and getting better as a team and as individuals."
Next up for Ireland tomorrow is Canada who, as hosts, are already guaranteed their place at the 2015 World Cup Finals and Roche is delighted to face unfamiliar opposition even if they are ranked seventh in the world, a massive 26 places higher than Ireland.
She said: "I was hoping we would get somebody like Canada rather than the likes of France or Scotland whom we have already played in the recent past. It is a good opportunity for us to play somebody who we wouldn’t get in qualifiers. We’ve played against teams from Oceanica, Asia and Europe this week so now we have team from North America and that’s plenty of variety.
"They are ranked seven in the world so it goes without saying that will be a tough game but it will great preparation for the next few qualifiers."
The Irish squad had a light training session yesterday with those who didn’t play against Switzerland or came on as substitutes getting a full blow-up while the starters watched from the sidelines. Yvonne Tracy has recovered from her knee injury and is fit for selection.
Manager Ronan says she is delighted with the guarantee of a top six finish and the prospect of a game against the team ranked seventh in the world.
Ronan said: "After coming into the tournament ranked 12th of the 12 countries and being in the position where we are guaranteed a place in the top six irrespective of tomorrow’s result against Canada is a great achievement and the girls and the staff deserve great credit for the work they have put in not only this week but over the last few months.
"Everybody is excited at the prospect of playing Canada. They are a new team for us and our performance analysts were working through the night studying them. It is great preparation for the Germany and Russia games and once again it will be the performance rather than the result that I will be concerned about tomorrow."
: Emma Byrne (Arsenal), Niamh Reid-Burke (Raheny United).
: Yvonne Tracy (Arsenal), Sophie Perry (Millwall), Meabh de Burca (Galway WFC), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United), Diane Caldwell (Avaldsness), Megan Campbell (Florida State University), Karen Duggan (Peamount United).
: Julie Ann Russell (Peamount United), Rachel Graham (Raheny United), Ciara Grant (Raheny United), Siobhan Killeen (Raheny United), Niamh Fahey (Arsenal), Dora Gorman (Peamount United), Aileen Gilroy (Castlebar Celtic), Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad), Emma Hansberry (Castlebar Celtic).
: Fiona O’Sullivan (SC Frieburg), Denise O’Sullivan (Glasgow City), Stephanie Roche (Peamount United), Ruesha Littlejohn (Glasgow City), Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United).
March 5, Cyprus Cup: New Zealand 1 Republic of Ireland 1
March 7, Cyprus Cup: Republic of Ireland 1 South Korea 1
March 10, Cyprus Cup: Switzerland 1 Republic of Ireland 2
March 12, Cyprus Cup: Canada v Republic of Ireland