Equal footing gives Ireland platform for success - Roche
They needed to take their campaign public but now that the Republic of Ireland women's team have secured equality, Stephanie Roche believes they can finally reach their potential.
It might be stretching it to assume that belatedly receiving recompense for time off work and wearing a tracksuit of their own will propel Ireland to the 2019 World Cup finals, but victory over Northern Ireland tonight would be at least a very satisfactory start.
Ireland, in Colin Bell's first competitive match at the helm, must beat their neighbours at Mourneview Park in Lurgan (7.30pm) to have any hope of figuring in the shake-up.
After this derby, they face another winnable game in Slovakia, but the big guns of Norway and newly-crowned European champions Holland are also part of a group from which only the top team is guaranteed a ticket to the finals in France.
Ireland have never reached a major tournament, despite some notable underage success, but the fundamentals for competing with nations similar in size and ranking didn't exist in their failed campaigns.
Thanks to their bravery in escalating their grievances with the FAI into the public domain, the squad these days want for nothing.
Roche, who at 28 is one of the senior players and was outspoken during the dispute in April, recognises the spotlight generated brings with it a level of pressure which was also not present heretofore.
"It was very important to get things sorted," emphasised the Sunderland winger.
"A lot of the girls always believed the ability and talent was in the squad for success but we just needed that backing.
"There is more pressure on us as a result but we can't expect to win any game. Being straightforward about it, these are the type of matches we have to win.
"We have to be beat the teams around us to go challenge the likes of Norway and Holland."
IRELAND (v Northern Ireland, (probable) - M Hourihan (Manchester City); S Perry (Brighton & Hove Albion), L Quinn (Arsenal), D Caldwell (SC Sand), M Campbell (Manchester City); N Fahey (Bordeaux), K Duggan (UCD Waves); A O'Gorman (UCD Waves), D O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), S Roche (Sunderland); K McCabe (Glasgow City).