Roma McLaughlin made a five thousand-mile trek to Turkey in order to renew her once-dormant international career last weekend and like any true proclaimer she’d gladly walk five hundred more to make another good impression in Georgia this Monday.
After all, this is the woman who, as a 16-year-old, regularly completed 550-mile round trips from her Greencastle home in Donegal’s Inishowen peninsula to line out for Peamount.
Last Sunday represented just her sixth cap in as many years, a tally she concedes has been predominantly due to her distant progression within the US College system for the past four years, in Central Connecticut State University with the ‘Blue Devils’ team.
“I’ll take a lot of confidence for that performance,” says the 24-year-old midfielder after making her first appearance of Vera Pauw’s three-year reign in Sunday’s 1-0 friendly win against the Phillippines.
“I only came into camp last year under Vera, and I think I’ve previously one senior start. So to get that start and play the 90 minutes for me was really important.
“When I got my first call-up under Vera against Iceland, I remember the feeling of that. It was kind of a bit of relief to think…not that they remember me, but I’m still in the mix or I can go in and prove myself.
“I’m grateful for that, and I’m really happy to be here, start a game and get 90 minutes under my belt.”
Hers is a not untypical story in a sport still straddling the true professional pathways available to the male version which is awash with cash.
Education has had to be her primary focus, even at the risk of international advancement, while also delaying the potential for opportunities in the paid ranks.
“I do think so, yeah,” she says when asked had her commitment to a four-year, physical exercise science undergraduate course, with a one-year master’s to come, had an impact.
“I think it was two or three years where I wasn’t called in, in the back of your mind you’re questioning whether you will be called or if your chance will come again.
“Fortunately enough, I proved myself to get back into the squad. For that, I’m very happy.”
Despite the distance travelled last week, she acclimatised with ease to the jet lag and the heat; she is currently in pre-season for the Connecticut Fusion club side as the temperatures soar on the eastern US seaboard.
Her ongoing aim has been to remain competitive but, once she completes her master’s, a decision must be made as to where she pursues a career on and off the pitch.
A continental shift seems the most likely journey to get closer to home and consistent Irish recognition, particularly given Pauw’s assertion that she is currently operating at a level below international standard.
“I’m open to doing anything once I finish my studies. I’m open to going anywhere if I’m honest.
“While I was in America, I got a call-up and I’ve been in here for a year now so I hope Vera knows what I can do and what I am capable of.
“But, yeah, I think somewhat making a move closer to home might benefit me more in the long run.”