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No last dance as Stephanie Roche returns to Ireland squad


Stephanie Roche at Republic Ireland training this week. Photo: Sportsfile

Stephanie Roche at Republic Ireland training this week. Photo: Sportsfile

Stephanie Roche at Republic Ireland training this week. Photo: Sportsfile

She hasn’t gone away, you know. There were many times Stephanie Roche pondered the end of her 55-cap international career, or whether the Irish manager Vera Pauw had already decided her 10-year stint had ended.

The most common questions posed to her public would always confirm the suspicion.

“So, when are you retiring?”

This weekend, she had been planning to play for Manchester United in a legends game; truly a sign that the sport decrees your day has been and gone.

But a hat-trick against Sligo last weekend, and a barnstorming display in her latest of many auditions in the home-based training squad session, finally forced the issue.

But even now, as the 33-year-old is poised to resume her career in green against the Phillippines in Sunday’s Antalya friendly, some of the reactions hint that her call-up may be a testimony of what she had done in the past, rather than what she might do in the future.

This is no last dance.

“I understand the question, it’s probably a bit of both, to be honest,” she admits.

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“I’m trying not to think about it too much in terms of that. Actually, one of my family members texted me to say, ‘Listen, enjoy it, it could be the last one.’

“It was in a nice way but I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, thanks for that!’ It’s funny because some people think I have retired, it’s gas, every time I meet people it’s: ‘Are you not playing for the Irish team anymore, have you retired?’ And I’m like, ‘Jesus Christ, how do I explain this now?’

“But it’s getting the balance right because if you get too worked about it, it will be your last chance so it’s about just taking everything in my stride. All I can do is when I’m given the opportunity I have to show what I can do and if I’m not, I just have to try and do it in training.

“So it’s about controlling what I can control and being ready for whatever opportunity comes my way because if you overthink it too much it will wreck your head, and there’s no point in that.”

With her marriage plans to fellow footballer Dean Zambra temporarily disrupted, her primary goal now is aiding Ireland’s assault on a maiden major tournament qualification; Georgia on Monday week the latest stepping stone.

“The World Cup, that’s the goal. Whether I’m playing or not, that’s the goal. You want to see the team qualify.”

The thrill of the call-up matches that of the 16-year-old sapling sitting in the AUL all those years ago; the circle of life but one not yet completed.

“Look, I’ve not really thought about retirement. Obviously I’m getting married and the plan would be to have a family, but for me right now my main focus is football.

“I probably still feel about 26 so I’m not thinking of my age or anything like that, the most important thing for me is that I’m enjoying my football and I’m doing that now at Peamount.

“I feel really part of the squad there, the staff and the players have made me feel brilliant and probably gave me that confidence back that I lacked for a little while.

“There have been a few lows over the last couple of years and a few disappointments, and even getting this call-up, I probably wasn’t expecting it because there’s been so many over the last few years where I’ve thought I might get it and then I’ve had that let down and had to deal with that.

“So to get the call-up again was obviously a different kind of emotion but something that I’m really with and it’s just about taking it while I’m here and enjoying the moment, but also not letting it pass me by.”

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