Stephanie Roche is back home in Dublin and about to resume her football career in the Women’s National League.
The well-travelled Ireland striker has left Italian side CF Florentia and, pending international clearance, is ready to join an as yet unidentified Irish club in time for the start of the new season next month.
Although unconfirmed, it is being widely speculated that she will play for current champions Peamount United, the club with whom she shot to international prominence in 2014 when she scored the wonder goal that saw her nominated for FIFA’s Puskas Award.
Since then, Roche has played in France, the United States, England, and Italy but, at the age of 30, she says she is now happy to be returning home and hopes that regular football here will give her a better chance of forcing her way back into the Irish team as they attempt to qualify for the 2021 European Championship Finals in England.
Since breaking her leg in a game against Northern Ireland in 2017, Roche’s action for her country has been limited to just a few minutes off the bench in November’s 1-1 draw with Greece in Athens.
But while naturally disappointed to have been left out of Vera Pauw’s squad for the upcoming games at home to the Greeks and away to Montenegro, Roche says she has had constructive discussions with the Ireland head coach about her decision to come home and how that might affect her prospects of reigniting her international career.
“Vera seemed quite understanding in terms of, if you are happy playing, then it is better than being away and not being happy,” said Roche.
“Obviously, I have been away from my boyfriend and my family for what, eight years now. And over the last year, there was a lot that happened.
I don’t want to talk bad about the club or anything - I finished on good terms - but there was a lot of stuff that didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. And I came to the realisation that it wasn’t for me.
“It’s about being happy and playing football. I played a football match yesterday and it was the first time I enjoyed a football match in about two years so I just need to get back to doing that - enjoying my football - and that will improve me as a footballer when I do get back in the Irish team.”
Roche was speaking at FAI headquarters at the launch of the ‘No Barriers 2020 Project’ which, in the run-up to this summer's Euro 2020 Finals, is aimed at encouraging primary schools to inspire social change in the community.
Roche said: “I’m really excited about this summer’s tournament and that Dublin will get the chance to showcase itself and Irish football by hosting four matches. I would encourage all schools to be part of this initiative, combining sport and social action, and sign up for ‘No Barriers’ today.”
For further information see www.fai.ie/nobarriers.