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Dublin: 7°C Monday 1 March 2021

'I'm just happy to be playing football with a smile on my face again' - Cup final hero Stephanie Roche

The Peamount United striker certainly finished a ‘slow burner of a season’ on a high.

STEPHANIE ROCHE CERTAINLY enjoyed that one; a double scored and a domestic double secured with all-conquering Peamount United.

stephanie-roche-celebrates-scoring-a-goal Stephanie Roche celebrates scoring one of her two goals this afternoon. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The well-travelled Ireland international was the star turn in her side’s 6-0 FAI Cup final victory over Cork City at Tallaght Stadium this afternoon. 

And having played in England, America and Italy, this success on home soil is one that will live long in the memory.

“It’s brilliant,” Player of the Match Roche told the media afterwards.

“Peamount have always been a very good club in Ireland, even when I played here before. You can see, all the players want to win it for the staff and the staff want us to win it for people behind the scenes. It’s a very good club and we’re just happy to be the players on the pitch doing the stuff to win the double.

“I love Peamount. I’ve always been very welcome here, when Eileen [Gleeson] was here in the past and obviously now as well, they’ve welcomed me back. I’m happy to be here. I’m just happy to be playing football with a smile on my face again, it’s important for every player.”

This year certainly hasn’t been a straightforward one. Pandemic aside, Roche struggled to fully get going on her return to Dublin from Florentia, her horrid luck with injury of late continuing through her second stint at Peamount. 

But the 31-year-old was firing on all cylinders today, back to her brilliant best and showing just how deadly of a finisher she is in the second half. 

“It’s been a bit of a slow burner of a season for me,” she conceded after scoring her sixth and seventh goals. “I’ve been in and out with little niggles, the cracked rib and stuff like that so I was just happy to get a little run of games coming into the final.

“Look, I’m confident in my own ability. It’s just being fully fit and getting myself ready. I’m already looking forward to next season and getting going properly, and I suppose, being fully fit the whole year.”

But back to this year, back to today.

“I’m kind of raging he didn’t leave me on to get the hat-trick, I’m not gonna lie!” the striker laughed. “Ah no, look, I’m just happy the goals came at a good time.”

Her change of boots was noted post-match too, the Dubliner switching an orange pair for black and white ones at half time. Happy to explain that one, she grinned: “I watched Dundalk playing at the Aviva the other day, the pitch was in bits. In fairness to Tallaght Stadium, they have this pitch in immaculate condition. I thought I’d need studs, and I didn’t in the first half so I decided to change boots. It must have worked.”

stephanie-roche-with-eabha-omahony Roche in action in the first half. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

It certainly did, with her brace settling the nerves and handing Peamount the opportunity to build on that platform and drive on after Cork’s hassling and harrying in the first half.

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“We knew that was going to be the case and I think it was always going to be a bit of a slow start. I think whoever scored first was going to win it, if they had to have scored first it would have made it really hard for us.

“Cork are a very well organised team, the manager has them playing the right way, they’ve got good individual players. It was a cagey first half, as a cup final always is.

“Maybe we were a little bit cautious and didn’t play our game like we knew we should. We came in at half time, James [O'Callaghan] had a good chat with us and we knew once we scored, things would flow. I think we showed our quality with the players we have and we got the goals we needed to win it.”

No doubt about that, with captain Áine O’Gorman, fellow stalwart Karen Duggan and super substitute duo Becky Watkins and Tiegan Ruddy joining Roche on the scoresheet to banish the heartbreak of back-to-back final defeats at the hands of Wexford Youths.

On that… “I think it was an ongoing joke for poor Karen over there,” Roche laughs, with a nod to Duggan who was on the losing side five times before today, between Peamount and UCD Waves. “She’s delighted to win today.

“Look, I think that would have always been in the back of players minds. But we’ve played good football all season. We always believed that we’d score and create chances, it was just about finishing them off and thankfully we did.”

Now, as the curtain comes down on the women’s domestic football season, it’s all about 2021 where Peas will be hell-bent on retaining their crowns and maintaining their dominance, as well as hopefully going “one step further” in the Champions League.

Roche won’t hide her excitement about that, while an Ireland recall surely won’t be too far from her mind too having certainly put herself back into contention today with Vera Pauw undoubtedly watching on.

But she’ll say nothing on that.

“Look, there’s no messages needed,” Roche concluded. “I just want to do my own stuff on the pitch and as I said, I want to play with a smile on my face and enjoy football.”

She did that today, that’s for sure.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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