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Wednesday 17 July 2019

Stephanie Roche: I can see myself settling down in the States - I have a pick-up truck and I'm living the dream

Stephanie Roche with Houston Dash team-mates
Stephanie Roche with Houston Dash team-mates

Stephanie Roche

I'm only a month into my life as a professional footballer and it still feels somewhat surreal. I have to pinch myself at times to remind myself I am living in Houston and embarking on a life changing experience.

Making my debut was such a proud moment for me, my family and friends and the Houston Dash have looked after me so well since I arrived. From the coaching staff, to the players and supporters I have been made to feel right at home even though I am more than 4,500 miles from Dublin!

The daily schedule has taken some adjustment, especially as football here is quite different to Europe. Aside from drills and general fitness training, strength and conditioning is a huge elements of the programme in Houston. This was evident from the first day at training as the girls are athletes as well as footballers.

It has been such a learning curve but I am loving every minute of it. So much so that I can see myself settling down in the States and calling it home for the foreseeable future.

Last Friday was a special night as I made my debut for the Dash. The atmosphere was fantastic as it was our first home game of the season in the stadium we share with Houston Dynamo, who are managed by former Ireland international Owen Coyle.

The sight of tricolour flags scattered around the stadium and chants of 'Olé Olé' made me feel so proud to be Irish and I couldn't wait to get the call from the bench to get my first taste of competitive action.

Stephanie Roche poses with Paul McEvoy (left) and fans after the game
Stephanie Roche poses with Paul McEvoy (left) and fans after the game

We won 2-0 which only added to the occasion. After the game I tried to meet as many fans as possible and the first person I spoke to was guy wearing a Tipperary GAA jersey! I recognised his face and he told me that he was one of the two lads who made headlines in Ireland for blagging their way into the Super Bowl back in February.

Paul McEvoy was very supportive and I can assure readers that he did pay to watch my match! I told him I'll look after him for tickets for the rest of our home games so our security staff needn't worry.

The club have been good enough to give me a pick-up truck, but the only problem is that I don't drive. My plan is to take lessons, but it is something I never saw myself ever driving.

Away from football I'm living in an unbelievable house in a part of Houston called 'The Heights'. A Monaghan woman, Sharon Tierney, took us in and will be our host for my time here. We have our own space in a very large house and she has made us feel very welcome.

I have tried to get to know my new city as quickly as possible and from a sporting point of view, I couldn't have asked for a better location. There are no shortage of major sports teams and I have been busy trying to watch as many as possible.

I supported the men's team, the Houston Dynamo, when they beat Montreal Impact 3-0, and also took in the Houston Rockets victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA basketball game.

We also watched the Houston Astros baseball team in action and there were some funny moments when the cameras spread around the ground for dance-offs and kiss cam. Dean and I sat there praying the camera wouldn't come on us and thankfully we escaped the focus of the cameraman!

On the topic of in-game entertainment, the basketball match really opened my eyes to how far sports organisations here will go to in order to ensure supporters are captivated.

At half-time there was a baby race with a mat rolled out over three lanes and the first baby to cross the line at the other end was crowned the winner. The winning parents won a state of the art pillow! Yes, a pillow! It was one of the funniest, and most bizarre, things I have ever seen.

We plan to try and make the most of our free time but my main focus is on football. I really want to do well for the Dash and that's going to take a lot of hard work. The NWSL is a tough league and I plan to be successful in my time here.

Our next game is on Saturday away to Sky Blue FC in New Jersey. Anyone in Ireland looking to stay up and watch can find the games live stream on YouTube.

Hopefully we can back up our last win with another three points.

Read more: Stephanie Roche poses with Super Bowl $50k seats blagger at Houston Dash debut

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