Ireland striker Stephanie Roche believes the unprecedented coverage of this summer’s Women’s World Cup will precede a lasting cultural shift in the perception of women’s sport. Roche was yesterday named among the panellists for RTÉ’s coverage of the tournament in France, alongside the likes of Ireland team-mate Megan Campbell and manager Colin Bell.
Between them, TG4 and RTÉ will show all 52 games from this summer’s tournament — which kicks off on Friday — 29 on TG4 and 23 on RTÉ. Like most football-mad children, Roche longed to emulate her idols but had no visible role models in the women’s game.
“For me, growing up, I got into football through playing with my brothers,” Roche told the Irish Examiner. “My dad was the one who ran my brother’s team and we would have always went to the matches and played at half-time with my younger brother, who would have been too young to play.
Through that I started playing football with the boys in the street. I never really had a female influence, although my mam was always supportive and apparently she played when she was young.
“At the same time, I never had that female role model [playing-wise] so I think it’s something that’s definitely going to change and become the norm.
“A lot of young girls and boys will be able to look up and see some female players and, asking in school ‘who’s your favourite player,’ it’s not just going to be Cristiano Ronaldo. It might be Alex Morgan or something else, so I think it’s a great thing.”
Roche, who was nominated for the 2014 Puskas Award for outstanding goal in world football, is considering her options after finishing up with Italian Serie A side Florentia.
A run of injuries has disrupted her career in recent months. Since returning to Ireland last month, she’s kept fit by training with her former club Peamount United.
“Florentia have offered me a contract for next season but I had a couple of issues before the end of the season so I’m waiting for them to be dealt with before I decide.”
She was quick to dispel any suggestions she’s about to sign for Manchester United — newly promoted to the top level in England — despite being a lifelong fan of the Red Devils.