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'Excited to get back' - Roche set for new challenge in Italy after injury-ravaged year

The Ireland striker has signed for a Serie A club.

IRELAND STRIKER STEPHANIE Roche is making the move to Italy after signing for a Serie A club.

Stephanie Roche On the move: Stephanie Roche. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 29-year-old has had a nightmare year of injuries but has finally put those woes behind her by striking a new deal overseas after parting ways with Sunderland.

She told The42 that she can’t yet reveal the name of the club as she is awaiting international clearance and registration to process, while her new employers want to make the announcement themselves in the next week.

Roche suffered a fracture to her tibia in Ireland’s opening European Championships qualifier against the North last September. In January, she suffered a major set-back as she returned to training and a stress fracture to her medial condyle was discovered.

Roche got the all-clear in August to return and from there, it was full steam ahead to putting her next career move in place.

“It’s been a mad year alright,” she told The42 at the launch of the Heinz Sports Club today.

“It’s been a long, hard slog to try get myself back. It’s very, very difficult on the sidelines not being able to do anything, that’s the hardest part of it all.

“I’m really excited to get back playing and hopefully get back scoring goals and enjoying my football again.

“I’ve been quite lucky in my career that I’ve got to play in different environments and different countries so it’s a different challenge for me again. It’s a good league and good clubs involved. I’m just looking forward to it.”

The Dubliner explained that several opportunities arose across the water in England but they came a bit too early considering her recovery situation. Then came interest from further afield.

RRP 0007 Heinz Sports Club ambassadors Roche and Aidan O'Shea. Source: Robbie Reynolds.

“I had talks with teams in Spain, France and obviously Italy,” she continues.

“I went over to visit the club — I’d actually only been back training three weeks so it was one of those things where I was like, ‘Am I doing the right thing here by coming over so soon?’

“I trained with them, explained to them where I was at in terms of fitness and my load. I ended up training one day and playing a match the next day. It went really well, considering how far off I was.

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“They were really understanding. They told me to go home to do my rehab in Ireland and they’d be in touch to get me back over to train for a week and see where I’m at then. It was up to me to come home, get fit and hopefully go back over and prove that I can compete in the league.

“I went over two weeks ago, trained for a week and thankfully they offered me a contract after that.”

Roche is well-travelled at this stage after stints in Ireland, England, France and America. Before her move to Sunderland in 2015, she plied her trade with Houston Dash for a short while.

Prior to that, she played with French outfit ASPTT Albi. She’s learned from past experiences though and will draw from them going forward in Italy.

Her aunty living nearby and Italian lessons arranged by the club are just two things that will help her settle in.

“I had a bit of a bad experience in France so before I signed here I made sure that everything that went wrong in France isn’t going to happen here again,” she smiles.

Stephanie Roche celebrates scoring a goal with Leanne Kiernan, Karen Duggan and Denise O'Sullivan Roche with Ireland teammates in 2016. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I went over three times before I actually signed. It’s one of those ones where I really took my time to make sure it was the right decision for me. That’s probably something that I’ve learned over the last few years.”

And while most of her focus is on this new move at the minute, Roche is also eyeing a return to the Ireland fold sooner rather than later.

She’s in touch with WNT manager Colin Bell regularly and is hoping that she will be included in November’s training camp or considered for friendlies in the New Year.

“Going away is definitely showing that I still want to play for Ireland,” she concludes.

“Anything I’ve done in my career has always been for Ireland. I wouldn’t go abroad to play if it wasn’t to better myself playing for my country — that’s the biggest thing for me.

“My main goal obviously is to get back into the team and keep playing for Ireland for a few more years.”

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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