Roche rock­ets into top three

Stephanie will clash with Ro­driguez and Van Per­sie

Bray People - - SPORT - DANIEL GOR­MAN Sports Re­porter

WITH over a year be­tween her goal and it’s Puskas nom­i­na­tion, Stephane Roche ad­mits she’d nearly for­got­ten all about it but it’s top 10 nom­i­na­tion for the FIFA Goal of the Year award brought the mem­o­ries flood­ing back.

And when the votes flooded in, she be­came the first fe­male to ever be make the top-three short­list.

Roche will now com­pete against James Ro­driguez and Robin van Per­sie and will dis­cover her faith on Mon­day, Jan­uary 12 as she brushes shoul­ders with the likes of Lionel Messi and her idol Cris­tiano Ron­aldo.

When the Shankill woman dis­cov­ered that she’d made the cut on Mon­day, it was dou­ble joy for her; one for the nom­i­na­tion it­self and two, be­cause she’d had her blushes spared on live French tele­vi­sion.

“I went down to the club­house and French TV were there to film me watch­ing the live feed on YouTube though FIFA TV”, Roche, 25, re­vealed. “I’m ob­vi­ously happy that my name was called out be­cause it would’ve been a lit­tle bit em­bar­rass­ing if it hadn’t with the TV cam­eras there! Ob­vi­ously my name was called out first so I was de­lighted.

“It still hasn’t sunk in to be hon­est. I was train­ing there an hour ago and since I got back my phone hasn’t stopped. It’s been a bit crazy. When I saw my face pop up I was just like ‘oh my god, that’s me, yes!’. It was just surreal. I’m happy that peo­ple have been so sup­port­ive and got be­hind me which has been bril­liant, it’s ob­vi­ously what’s got me there. I’m hop­ing that they’ll con­tinue to vote and maybe even get me to win it!”

Repub­lic of Ire­land cap­tain Rob­bie Keane pledged his support for Roche on Mon­day evening but such en­dorse­ments are all in a day’s work for the leggy blonde.

“There’s been so many peo­ple! There’s too many peo­ple for me to even men­tion. I’ve been tweet­ing peo­ple and I’m try­ing to get peo­ple to share it and they’ve been fan­tas­tic about it. I don’t even know what to say to be hon­est. I’m kind of speech­less at the minute and I’m just happy I’m in the top three.”

Her pop­u­lar­ity has its draw­backs too. She must now de- cide who will es­cort her to the awards cer­e­mony, where she’s hop­ing to be­friend a Mr. Cris­tiano Ron­aldo.

“I just have to find out how many peo­ple I can bring be­cause there’s a bit of a list! Ob­vi­ously Dean (Zam­bra, Bray Wan­der­ers player) wants to come with me and he’s my boyfriend so he’s go­ing to come and I’d re­ally love to bring my Dad as well, he’s a re­ally big sup­porter. I’m just wait­ing to hear from FIFA to hear what the story is and what the plan is for the awards.

“I’d love to meet Ron­aldo, he’s one of the play­ers I’ve ad­mired for the last 10 years or so since he started play­ing for United. It’s a great op­por­tu­nity and maybe even I’ll get the chance to talk to the likes of van Per­sie and Ro­driguez. We’ll see what hap­pens!”

It will be a night she’ll never for­get but it is a goal she’d nearly for­got­ten; such was the gap be­tween its cre­ation and its nom­i­na­tion. And hav­ing come this far, she now wants to take the fi­nal step and take home the prize.

“I’d put it to the back of my mind and then to be nom­i­nated for the Puskas award brought it all back out in the open. Now it’s just blown up again and it’s be­ing seen on a world­wide scale now rather than just in Ire­land. It’s been great. The re­ac­tion it’s been get­ting is just great for me as a foot­baller and ob­vi­ously to be the first fe­male to be short­listed for the top three is a great achieve­ment as well. I’m just re­ally happy.

“Even to be short­listed for the top 10 I was happy with it. I’m not go­ing to lie, as soon as I got there I wanted to get to the top three and now that I’m in the top three I do want to win it but I don’t want to be greedy ei­ther. I’m happy for what’s hap­pened to me and I’m lucky enough that my goal was caught on cam­era and I’m just hop­ing peo­ple will look at the goal and see it on merit and think I’m wor­thy to win it.”

It will be an ag­o­nis­ing 40- day wait be­tween now and then. She does an­tic­i­pate some ner­vous times as D-Day draws closer but she’ll try to busy her­self with prepa­ra­tions for what could be the night of her life.

“I hadn’t ac­tu­ally thought about it at all un­til to­day (Mon­day) and then about half an hour be­fore it was be­ing an­nounced I got so ner­vous and I don’t know where it came from! I had been say­ing “I don’t care” and “we’ll just see what hap­pens” and then as soon as it came close to it, I was so ner­vous! So I’d say it’s go­ing to be the same thing on the night of the ac­tual awards. I haven’t though that far ahead yet. I’ll prob­a­bly be wor­ry­ing about what dress to wear and whether I’m get­ting my hair done!”

She also has her French club ASPTT Albi to oc­cupy her time and mind. Although it hasn’t all been smooth sail­ing, she hopes she can reap the ben­e­fits from her ten­ure there.

“It’s ob­vi­ously been quite dif­fi­cult with the lan­guage bar­rier and it’s been a big cul­ture change but I’m just happy I’m able to play foot­ball full-time and not have to worry about get­ting off work and stuff like that. It’s just nice to be in a full-time en­vi­ron­ment and I’m look­ing for­ward to the Ir­ish games next year and hope­fully me play­ing full-time will ben­e­fit me in them games.”

Roche’s goal was scored while she was play­ing for Peamount United against Wex­ford Youths in the Women’s Na­tional League. It was posted on­line and she promptly shot to fame. Be­tween the sev­eral dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the goal, she has ac­crued well in ex­cess of four mil­lion views.

To vote for her ef­fort, log onto fifa.com.

StEPHANIE ROCHE wHOsE GOAL HAs MADE It tO tHE tOP tHrEE OF tHE FIFA GOAL OF tHE YEAr AwArD.

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