Sunday 21 January 2018

Stephanie Roche: No Presidential Suites, just hard graft and a punt or two on Ruby Walsh

Jockey Ruby Walsh celebrates victory on Faugheen last year
Jockey Ruby Walsh celebrates victory on Faugheen last year
Stephanie Roche

Stephanie Roche

With a wry smile and that cheeky glint in her eyes, Aine O’Gorman says: “We are in the Presidential Suite.”

The girls still keep the laugh going but it’s kind of refreshing to know there is no Presidential Suite, just a bit of banter. I am back amongst not just my team-mates, but my friends. I am back playing what I love playing – football. And it’s Cheltenham week. Things could not be better.

I’ve always loved Cheltenham and even though I wouldn't know a lot about horse racing in general, I like having a few bets to keep the interest and get involved in the excitement of the week.

I always like seeing the Irish jockeys and horses doing well. I generally back Ruby Walsh who has a great festival record and I recently heard him talk about a few of his rides.

He mentioned Black Hercules who runs on Friday in the Albert Bartlett who have a chance at decent odds.

Being away on international duty can mean long days as you try and keep the body and mind focused on the football and having a punt in Cheltenham week will be a welcome distraction.

I will also be watching as champion jockey and Irish legend Tony McCoy rides in his last Cheltenham festival before retirement. He has had a phenomenal career and is a true Irish great and I hope to see him finish off his last Cheltenham festival with a few winners.

How hard must it be for him this week?

I have no doubt he will not let the emotion of the occasion get to him as he is the ultimate professional but it must be so tough to keep his mind fully focused on the job in hand but that is why he is the best at what he does.

Next big task for me – find a TV here in Croatia!

I am in Croatia to take part in the Istria cup with Ireland and it has been great to put the dresses to one side and get the boots back on.

I always love playing for Ireland and I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of the Irish set-up for quite a few years now and I would consider a lot of the girls good friends and not just team mates.

They have all really been very supportive with everything that has happened the last few months too, although I’m still getting the odd bit of slagging.

It really was nice to just get back into full training and focusing on matches after everything that has happened the last few months. I’ve said all along football is my main focus and I want to get back on track with that. I started my first match since December when we played Slovakia on Friday.

While it was great to get a run out and I was happy with my fitness levels, we were really disappointed to lose the game 2-0. In our first match we played Hungary and the points were shared in a 1-1 draw. Unfortunately,  Austria beat us 2-0 yesterday and will play our final game of the tournament on Wednesday with the opponent yet to be determined.

When I get back to Dublin Wednesday night I’ll have just over 24 hours before I take my flight to Houston. We fly out Friday the 13th!

I’m really looking forward to getting to Houston now and getting started with my new team. I received our training schedule on Saturday and it is going to be pretty intense.

First up, I have a few little appearances to make in Houston the weekend I arrive and then the big day at the White House.

Following that it is full steam ahead for pre-season and focus on the opening game of the NWSL season. My 24 hours at home certainly will not be quiet as I go to the American Embassy for a visa interview and then I visit Helen Cody’s studio in Dublin to get fitted for the dress that I'll be wearing to the White House on St. Patrick’s Day.

Helen of course designed my dress for the Ballon D’Or awards in January and I'm delighted she is working with me again.

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