Ireland's women are hoping to brighten up what has been a torrid week for Irish international football with a win over Wales tomorrow in Cork.
With Euro 2012 effectively over for Ireland's men's side, Sue Ronan's charges could take a massive step towards a playoff for Euro 2013 with a win over the Welsh.
The Girls in Green are just a point off Scotland in the runners-up spot, with Ireland to face the Scots this Wednesday. Ireland beat Wales away earlier in the qualification campaign, but striker Stephanie Roche was adamant that they wouldn't take Jarmo Maitikainen's side for granted.
“It was a tough match,” the Peamount player said, “we just took our chances so hopefully we can do that again. We beat Wales away but they're still a good team, they'll be tough to beat.”
Roche was in glittering form this season in the WNL for Peamount, with her 26 goals earning her the golden boot award. But can she hit the mark against Wales tomorrow?
“I think it's a little bit of a step up to international level,” Roche admits, “but I'm confident going into the games but hopefully I'll get a chance and get a goal if I can.”
Turner's Cross is the venue for tomorrow's match, as well as Wednesday's clash with the Scots, and Roche recalls how it has been a happy hunting ground for her in the past. “I scored my first goal for Ireland down there so I like the place” she says.
“The stadium is great and I know the support will be great. I know Euro 2012 is on but it doesn't clash with any Irish match so hopefully we'll get a bit of support.”
Ireland are in with a fighting chance of making the playoffs for Euro 2013, but they could already be in a dominant position. The last qualifier, away in Scotland, saw Ireland surrender a two goal lead in the space of a minute in the dying stages of the match.
Roche may not have been in the squad for that match (a shortage of defenders meat she had to sit it out) but she still shares in the squad's desire for revenge tomorrow.
“I followed it on twitter” she says. “We stuck with them for 80 minutes, it was just a few lapses in concentration more than anything so hopefully we can beat them here.”
The significance of making a playoff and potentially qualifying for Euro 2013 is not lost on Roche. “All we're worrying about is the next match, but I think that we can get two results from these matches and then we can concentrate on France and Israel” the striker says.
“Look at the Champions League last year, anyone who has a bit of success brings out a bit of support. We [Peamount] had nearly 2000 fans there in the Champions League. If we got to the playoffs we'd have a massive support, it'd be great.”
A year ago, Roche would have been one of a few domestic-based players in the squad. Now, the first ever Women's National League is bearing fruit, as more players move up into the senior side. Roche is keenly aware of the progress that has been made so far: “There's five of us in the squad this time (Roche, Louise Quinn, Megan Campbell, Denise O'Sullivan and Cherelle Khassal).”
“It's good to see Irish teams being represented in the national team” she continues. “It just shows how good the league has been, so hopefully we'll have a few more players coming in over the next year.”
It seems that the downside of playing with a successful club like Peamount and an international side, as Roche does, is that your season can stretch to well over a year. Except according to the Shankill native, that isn't actually that much of a downside:
“I think it's been 16 or 17 months non-stop playing football [but] you don't get tired of it, we haven't been training with Peamount and I've been missing it already. We do need a bit of a break, but I don't think a lot of the girls mind it.”