Saturday 26 May 2018

Niall Horan, Conor McGregor and Ian Wright all backing Stephanie Roche with just one week to go

Puskas award in sight for Irish woman

Ireland international striker and FIFA Puskás Award nominee Stephanie Roche
Ireland international striker and FIFA Puskás Award nominee Stephanie Roche
Ger Keville

Ger Keville

It’s just one week until Ireland’s Stephanie Roche finds out if her goal will be voted the best of 2014 and she has received a timely boost from One Direction pop sensation Niall Horan.

While UFC tough man Conor McGregor tweeted his support to his 285k Twitter followers on New Year’s Eve, Horan has followed suit and has voiced his approval to a whopping 21 million people.

Football mad Horan tweeted Roche over the weekend and claimed that he scores goals like hers for fun in his back garden!

“@StephanieRoche9 what a screamer , hope Ya win it ! I score them in the garden all the time , know exactly how it feels,” said Horan on the social media platform.

Horan’s support comes hot on the heels of McGregor, who bumped into the Irish international at an RTE New Year’s Eve party and tweeted to his followers to vote for her screamer.

Ian Wright is another household name who backed Roche over the weekend when he tweeted to his one million followers: “The countdown to the #puskasaward is on. Vote for @stephanieroche9 #steph4puskas just click.”

While rivals Robin van Persie and James Rodriguez will fly into the glitzy Ballon D’Or cermony in Zurich next Monday on private jets, Roche will make a grueling nine-hour road trip because of club commitments.

"We've a game at 3pm on Sunday in Soyaux which is the middle of nowhere and there are no flights from there," she explained last week.

"The two options are either travel directly by car and arrive in Zurich at 2am or come back with the squad to Albi, catch a flight from Toulouse to Amsterdam and then drive to Zurich just in time for the ceremony.

"I want to soak up the atmosphere of the event, so we'll go by car."

With voting open until the event day, the Ireland winger is pleading for a final push from the public, both in Ireland and beyond, as Real Madrid's Colombian's playmaker Rodríguez is currently favourite to triumph for his strike in the World Cup.

Roche's determination remains, however, and with the clip of her goal for Peamount United against Wexford Youths heading towards five million Youtube hits, she's confident of success.

"Finishing second isn't going to be much use to me in the future," she admitted.

"If I was to win the award, it would make a huge difference to myself and the game overall in Ireland.

"I've had the likes of John Hartson, Ian Wright, Martin O'Neill and even David Luiz say mine is the best goal of the three."

Roche's story and the resultant fame has drawn attention from unlikely quarters.

"I've been stopped in a couple of supermarkets in France and asked for selfies," she said.

"Learning the language has been the most difficult part of living in France but there's a universal understanding of what a selfie is!

"Hopefully, people keep voting and the goal wins. It would be great to win but it wouldn't change me. Everyone knows that I'm not a cocky player," added Roche.

• To register your vote, click here.

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