ON A WEEKEND of truly brilliant goals, Stephanie Roche arguably pips the likes of Jack Wilshere, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paddy McCourt to top spot.
Her wonder-strike against Wexford Youths in the Women’s National League has gone viral over the past two days.
On top of receiving coverage from media outlets around the world and being tweeted by the likes of Gary Lineker and Matt Le Tissier, a YouTube clip of the piece of brilliance has gained over 800,000 views since Saturday and is on the verge of reaching one million hits.
It has been a hectic day for 24-year-old Dubliner Roche. When we catch up with her she has just been down at Peamount’s Greenogue ground in Newcastle, Co Dublin to film a piece with RTÉ News and is on her way to 2FM’s studios.
“It is great to get the recognition,” the striker says. “I couldn’t believe people like Gary Lineker have been tweeting it. They have seen so many goals over the years so for them to think it is up there is unbelievable.”
The goal itself is a thing of real beauty. Patient build-up play, Aine O’Gorman’s accurate cross, a great first touch, the presence of mind to flick the ball over the opponent’s head, and a first class volley into the top corner.
Aine pinged it in at me so I didn’t really get the chance to think about the first touch,” Roche recalls. “It was instinctive to take a touch with my right foot.
“That defender had been marking me all match and was getting tight to me so I knew she would be there. So I decided to flick it over her head and the rest was just instinct.”
Incredibly, it ended something of a goal-drought for the Peas forward, who claimed her first and second of the season in the 6-1 win away to Wexford Youths that day and followed them up with another brace against Galway yesterday.
“I was just happy to score because I hadn’t all season. It wasn’t until after the game that it sunk in. I’m up to four now from the last two games which isn’t too bad.”
It could’ve been very different, however, as manager Eileen Gleeson explains: “After half-time we were walking out onto the pitch and she had a slight quad strain. I was saying I might have to take her off as we had a game the following week and had to be careful.
She said ‘I just need to score a goal’. So I said ‘right, score a goal and we’ll see how you are’. Four minutes later, that was the response.
See when that goal went in, I had an outer body experience. What a goal, it was a real cracker. Steph has provided many super goals but that was special.
“She needed a goal to get going. With strikers it’s a big confidence thing so she just needed to open her account.”
During her time with Peamount, Roche has won national titles and FAI Cups, represented Ireland alongside several of her team-mates and played in the Champions League knockout stages against Paris Saint-Germain.
She is in no doubt that this latest achievement is right up there but insists that women’s football in Ireland regularly produces its fair share of quality.
“Since it happened I’ve been saying that most of the games in the WNL are a really good standard. “There are good goals that just haven’t been recognised because they weren’t videod.
Gleeson adds: “We were putting it up to showcase the goal and give Steph credit for the technique and skill but we didn’t anticipate a response like this.
“We wanted to promote Peamount United, Wexford Youths and what is on show in the Women’s National League but it has been amazing.
“There’s a good product there and a bit more promotion is needed. Stuff like this has got a great response but there could be more done to put out the talent on show.”
While Roche is being lauded around the world today, her long-term boyfriend Dean Zambra finds himself in a very different situation as the Bray Wanderers midfielder aims to keep the Seagulls in the Airtricity League Premier Division.
He doesn’t get to see Peamount play often due to work commitments but was chuffed when he watched it back and can even claim some of the credit, according to Roche.
He was delighted and did his best to share it on Twitter and let people know about it.
“Only the other day we were up in the field trying to mimic the Dani Alves and Messi keepy-uppy thing and that must have paid off with my first touch for the goal.”
Roche playing for Ireland. Credit: INPHO/Donall Farmer
Having lost out to rivals Raheny United in the league last season, Peamount are bidding to wrestle the title back this season but trail the North Dubliners by three points after losing 3-0 in the big one a couple of weeks back.
“We know ourselves that we didn’t start well. Raheny deservedly won the game in fairness to them. After playing really well in the last two games, all the doubt has gone and we’re getting our confidence and spark back.
We have experience of winning the league behind us and want to get back into the Champions League.”
On the international stage, Roche has been left out of Sue Ronan’s last three Ireland squads. The disappointment of being suddenly omitted has made her even more determined to win her place back, however.
“I was dropped against Austria and wasn’t told why or what the story was. I’ve played for the last few years so it hurt me to be let go while not knowing what was happening so I’d love to get back in again.”
You have to think a couple more goals like this one and the Ireland boss would be foolish not to give her a recall.
YouTube credit: eileen gleeson