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Dublin: 5°C Monday 21 September 2020

Serie A's new star Steph Roche eyeing local derby for full return after 'whirlwind' year

The Ireland striker is dealing with a minor ankle injury but is ‘buzzing’ for Florentia to face Fiorentina.

IRELAND STRIKER STEPHANIE Roche is almost set for her full return to competitive action in Italy after “a bit of a whirlwind.”

Stephanie Roche Roche's signing for Florentia was confirmed yesterday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Dubliner’s move to Serie A was fully confirmed yesterday as Florentia announced their latest signing. 29-year-old Roche told The42 last month that she had sealed a move to Italy but could not reveal the name of the club.

She’s spent the last year dealing with a nightmare double-leg break, and injury setback after setback, but is now ready to put that difficult period to bed — which also included a contract termination with Sunderland — and drive on overseas.

“It’s been a long time coming but I’m glad to say that it’s finally out there and I’m able to start playing matches,” Roche told RTÉ 2fm’s Game On last night.

“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but it has worked out very well. The club have been really understanding with my injury, they’ve been very patient with me as I get back to full fitness, so I am happy to sign here and finally get going.”

Speaking from her new base in Tuscany, the 29-year-old explained how the move came about. A guy she met in England initiated it all, he was in touch with the club and knew they were recruiting.

After parting ways with the Black Cats, Roche feared that she had missed the window of opportunity in England and that really narrowed down her options. Luckily interest from further afield came; from Spain, France and obviously Italy.

Interestingly, before heading to Florentia for two separate trials, she trained with her old club, Peamount United, to get her up to scratch.

She did reveal that at one point she was wary that a move may not come about, particularly after dealing with a long-term injury and while it was tough, she never considered packing it in: 

“I’m at an age now where I have think about the latter stages of my career. I was never in a position where I wanted to stop playing, so I had to keep working hard.”

Delighted that it’s all worked out, Roche is excited to finally do her talking on the pitch.

Her new Florence-based club are currently in fifth place in the Italian Women’s Serie A after six games this season, and are six points behind leaders AC Milan.

They play Milan next week, but as she’s dealing with a minor injury at the minute, Roche can’t see her debut coming that fast. She’s eyeing a local derby instead. 

roche Signed, sealed, delivered: Stephanie Roche.

“I’m still doing a bit of rehab as I have an issue with my ankle,” she continues.

“So I think I will be fit for the Fiorentina game [on 1 December], which will be a local derby so I’m looking to set my sights on that game. I’m hoping to make an impact in that. I’ll be buzzing.”

Roche added on the league itself: “The Italian FA have really started to put a lot of money into it, the league is getting more competitive: there’s teams like Juventus, AC Milan, and Roma have put women’s team into it.

“I’ve watched the girls play in a couple of games. The team and this club are looking to compete with the top teams — it’s really exciting to see that these are the teams I’ll be playing against week in, week out. 

“I’m in one of the most beautiful places in the world so I am going to have to enjoy the experience of being here and not just playing football, but to live the life as well.”

Well-travelled at this stage after stints in Ireland, England, France and America, Roche is more than ready to add another country and challenge to the list. Before her move to Sunderland in 2015, she plied her trade with Houston Dash for a short while.

Stephanie Roche with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi THAT picture from the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or awards. Source: Valeriano Di Domenico/INPHO

Prior to that, she played with French outfit ASPTT Albi and Peamount in the Women’s National League (WNL).

Perhaps most well-known as the 2014 Fifa Puskas award runner-up, it comes up as the conversation rounds off, of course.

“Ahhh look…,” she grins. “I know it made me famous, I suppose, within the women’s game and put my name out there.

“It is the first thing people think when they hear my name. It’s always going to follow me around, it’s not something that I don’t want to talk about.

“But I also feel I have a lot more to offer. That’s what I’ve been looking to do. I’ve been working hard in training, I want to show the coaches here that I can score goals on a regular basis and not just the odd wonder goal here and there.”

And that she will, no doubt.

Source: RTÉ2fm/SoundCloud

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Emma Duffy

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