On Friday evening after a 4-1 defeat away to Finland Sue Ronan’s side saw their ambition of qualifying for Euro 2017 ended. However, on Tuesday evening the Girls in Green put the disappointments of Valkeakoski behind them as they recorded a record home victory at Tallaght Stadium, slotting nine goals past a helpless Montenegro side.
After signing autographs and taking photographs with the hundreds of fans in attendance, a delighted Stephanie Roche spoke to Extratime.ie about bouncing back to winning ways.
“Yeah, I think all of us were really disappointed not to get the win in Finland,” the forward said when asked if it was good to return to winning ways.
“We knew how important that game was and I think we were very disappointed we didn’t perform, and coming into this game we knew, having beaten them before away, that we could get a good win and I’m happy that we put them away and got a record win.”
After coming off the bench in Finland the forward was rewarded for her second-half headed goal with a place in the starting XI and she was delighted to have bagged her first international Hat-trick.
“Yeah, definitely. I always want to start. I feel like I’ve been in good form for my club lately and I just wanted to get on and take my chance when I got it. I think at times in the first half I was trying to get into space, but in the second half I was getting into good positions and thankfully I was able to put the ball in the back of the net.”
With half-time fast approaching and Ireland in cruise control at 2-0, Roche found herself standing over a dead ball on the edge of the box and she explained that from watching footage of the visiting goalkeeper she was aware that if she could find the target there was a high chance of her strike finding the back of the net.
“I knew the keeper from watching the clips that we’ve seen, that if I got it anywhere near the corner, it was going in so I just needed to concentrate on getting it on target and getting my technique right.”
After a successful club partnership with Aine O’Gorman for Peamount United several years ago, the Sunderland star was delighted to share the match ball with her long-time friend and Women’s National League’s top scorer.
“I was delighted for Áine because I think she’s on great form in the Women’s National League, or was before the season finished and she’s a great footballer, a great forward and I’ve played with her for a long time. I think we’ve a really good connection on the pitch. So, I think I was just happy that she got the hat-trick first of all and then to be able to get mine was nice too.”
After back-to-back home defeats in the qualifying campaign against Finland and Spain, Roche was quick to explain that they haven’t played well at home since pushing Germany all the way in a 3-2 defeat in April 2014 and she revealed that the squad felt they “owed” the fans a performance against Montenegro.
“I think we owed the fans that. I think, if we’re honest with ourselves we haven’t really had a great performance here. I think we’ve had some good ones, probably against Germany is one that stands out and obviously we lost that in the end. We all said before the game that there was a great crowd again, they keep on coming back so we needed to give them something to cheer, so we were just happy we got the win.”
After opening their campaign with a 2-0 defeat to Finland at Tallaght Stadium, the substitute last September revealed that the opening game was a match they really should not have lost.
“We all said that,” she said when asked if they let that game get away from them. “I think it’s the game. Obviously on Friday night we were all disappointed not winning that, but I think the game at home was the one that kind of lost it for us. I know we had a lot of games to kind of get back, but that kind of threw us off track early in the campaign, so it’s obviously something that we need to look back at and rectify.”
With one qualifier left in September against Portugal - a side Ireland defeated 2-1 last year before the team’s attention turns to qualification for the 2019 World Cup, Roche agreed when asked if the underage stars coming through the ranks will increase the competition amongst the squad.
“Definitely, but I think that’s good,” she told Extratime.ie.
“The young players have [begun to] come in.
“Megan [Connolly] has done really well, but if you look at the players we’ve had here for quite a long time, they’re still quite young. We have Denise O’Sullivan, Katie McCabe, these are players who are already established first team players so I think there are players who are in the team who know that there’s going to be competition.
“That’s always good and it’s always healthy for the team so hopefully they can come in and they can gel with us and the mixture of senior and experience will work with the youth,” Roche concluded.