Saturday 18 November 2017

Roche: Wonder goal was no fluke

Stephanie Roche's goal is one of three contenders for FIFA's Puskas Award
Stephanie Roche's goal is one of three contenders for FIFA's Puskas Award

Stephanie Roche has insisted her wonder strike which will be celebrated at Monday's FIFA Ballon d'Or gala was not a fluke.

The Republic of Ireland women's international is competing with World Cup goals from Robin van Persie and James Rodriguez for the Puskas Award, named after the great Hungarian Ferenc Puskas.

The accolade goes to the scorer of the best goal in a year of world football, with an eligibility period from October 3, 2013 to September 26, 2014 allowing Roche's spectacular effort for Peamount United against Wexford Youths Women to squeeze in.

It came on October 13, 2013, in front of a crowd numbering just 95 at Wexford's Ferrycarrig Park, where to Roche's delight the goal was caught on camera.

Home coach John Flood brought his video kit to the ground and organised footage that was intended purely for his post-match analysis, but which instead reaped the only recording of a goal now viewed over six million times on YouTube.

Roche, 25, was named on a 10-player long-list by football's world governing body FIFA in November 2014, learning of her nomination first on social media, before making the cut to the elite three in December.

It made her the first woman to feature on a Puskas Award final shortlist, and the first player from Ireland.

"The first I heard of it was through Twitter," Roche told Press Association Sport.

"I got a tweet from FIFA to say my name was in the top 10 for the Puskas Award and it was a surprise. That's how it happened - it was nothing too official until I got to the top three and they got in touch with the Football Association of Ireland and made contact with me."

The jaw-dropping moment in Peamount's green and black colours came when Roche collected a short cross from the right on her right instep, flicked it over bemused defender Laura Heffernan with her other boot and from 25 yards magicked up a left-footed missile of a volley that found the top right corner.

To prove the goal was not a once-in-a-lifetime effort, she repeated it on request for French TV cameras, during her time playing for ASPTT Albi.

"They asked me after training whether I'd try to replicate it and thankfully enough I was able to do it. I pulled it off a couple of times and people realised it wasn't a fluke, which was nice. I did it on my second go," Roche said.

French top-flight side Albi this week confirmed Roche has decided to leave them after a six-month stint, during which she reportedly earned a salary of £650 per month, supplemented by living accommodation provided by her employer. There could soon be far better offers on the table for Roche.

FIFA has allowed a public vote to judge the Puskas Award winner, and Roche has been banging the drum for her strike. She and her Bray Wanderers footballer boyfriend Dean Zambra will be in Zurich, with fingers crossed.

"I'm quite excited about the ceremony now. I haven't had much time to think about it over the last few months, I've just been doing all I can to promote the goal," Roche said.

She laughs at getting the nod ahead of any strike from Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

Roche added: "They're both fantastic footballers and playing at a higher level than me. But to be chosen ahead of their goals is unbelievable."

Ronaldo, Messi and Germany's World Cup-winning goalkeeper Manuel Neuer go head to head for the FIFA Ballon d'Or award, which recognises the best player in the men's game. FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award will go to Brazil's Marta, Germany's Nadine Kessler or American Abby Wambach.

Press Association

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