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Evan Treacy/INPHO Stephanie Roche (file pic).
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'I had to disappoint her many times... She wanted to keep going and this is a reward'
Stephanie Roche has been recalled to the Irish squad after a lengthy absence.

Updated at 16.04

IRELAND BOSS Vera Pauw has praised the professionalism of Stephanie Roche after she was recalled to the squad after a lengthy absence today.

The 33-year-old attacker is one of the most experienced players at Pauw’s disposal with 55 caps to her name but has had to be patient in recent times, most recently playing in the 1-1 draw with Greece during the Euro 2022 qualifiers.

“Stephanie is a target player and we need to find out who is the best in that position because Kyra Carusa is not available and she was our first target player,” Pauw explained at a press conference.

“Stephanie is a fantastic person and a fantastic athlete. She’s always there. I had to disappoint her many times. We’ve always kept very good contact. I’ve always explained to her where she stands. I was always honest and she was always honest to me. And it’s a reward for her hard work because she kept working and working that there would be a moment that we needed her again. She wanted to keep going and this is a reward for all of her hard work — always there at the home-based sessions, always there to have extra training, always there at any moment.”

Ireland are missing several players ahead of the friendly with the Philippines in Antalya, Turkey (19 June) and the World Cup qualifier away to Georgia (27 June).

Wexford Youths duo Aoibheann Clancy and Ellen Molloy miss out as they are sitting their Leaving Certificate exams, while Savannah McCarthy, Megan Campbell, Aoife Colvill, Rianna Jarrett, Leanne Kiernan and Kyra Carusa are all out injured.

There is one new call-up — Naoisha McAloon, a goalkeeper in the English Championship with Durham WFC.

“Naoisha is coming with us because we have a long period. Our goalkeeping coach, Jan Willem van Ede, wanted to find a moment when he could work with her for a longer period of time other than the home-based season. She’s so close to the others, so we decided to bring her now. We have the other goalkeepers also, Courtney Brosnan, Grace Moloney and Megan Walsh, so we’ll see where she gets and how she grows this week.”

Pauw acknowledged that the timing of these fixtures is far from ideal, with the WSL-based players in the squad having ended their season as far back as 8 May.

“Only the Scottish players who played in the cup ended on 29 May and Claire O’Riordan [of MSV Duisburg] on 5 June. So it’s a very mixed-up group in terms of fitness for the players. Most of them could only do running programmes and the players who could come to Ireland have trained with the Women’s National League and with boys’ teams.

“So we are ready now to step into a very, very difficult programme because we need to get them all on the same level. Therefore we have slotted in a game against the Philippines. We could have chosen about 12 top countries, but at this stage, where we are in our fitness and preparation, we needed a team that could get us ready for Georgia. The Philippines came on our plate, so we were very happy.

“It’s [a rescheduling of] the postponed game — the Premier League men and WSL women did not release players in August because of the Covid situation. Then Scotland refused to send players so we ended up missing 23 players on our long list and you cannot carry that.

“Uefa then decided to postpone it and we are now forced to play a crucial game at a moment when we are far out of competition. In a normal season, they would [finish] end of May, but now the league stopped at the beginning of May because of the Euros, so it’s a double misfortune in that sense.

“Are we frustrated? No. We knew already for a year. What’s been a bit frustrating has been organising the training sessions. But with all help from everybody, with the help of boys’ teams and WNL clubs, we felt most of the players [are in] good situations and that really helps.”

Ireland face a must-win game in Georgia later this month and the Dutch coach is adamant her team won’t be feeling any sense of complacency despite winning the reverse fixture 11-0.

“That’s the danger, eh? Don’t forget that Sweden in the first game [against Georgia] won only 4-0 and Finland only 3-0 in their first game, so it’s not a walkover by definition, not at all.

“Every piece of the puzzle must fall in place as it did in our first game against Georgia. It was a combination of them not expecting us that good and us having played an exceptional game. I think that combination was there and again, we don’t have rhythm. We will have one game in our legs. We played with the players here two times against boys, that is fantastic. So we need to see where we get. The aim is first winning and if we get goals, then of course we keep on going. But the first aim is to get those three points.”

Winning the final three qualifiers is key, not just to ensure qualification for the playoffs but to put themselves in the best possible position to be seeded amid the hope that they only need to play one game as opposed to two if they get there.

“We know that, the players know that. We also need goals of course to do that because if we get stronger numbers too, you might skip the first round [of the playoffs]. But it is extremely important for now that we focus on getting to the playoffs. And we have that in the back of our heads so it will not be that we take the foot off the gas if everything falls in place, but again the big danger is that you don’t get that ball in the net.”  

Originally published at 10.53

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