The Sophist Exclusive | Interview with Sunderland Ladies striker Stephanie Roche

Sunderland Ladies striker Stephanie Roche has spent the season sidelined with injury and admitted it’s hard watching on while her teammates are out on the pitch.

The Republic of Ireland centre-forward joined the Black Cats from Houston Dash in 2015 but has seen her second full season in the North-East hampered by setbacks.

When asked of her worst career moments, the 28-year-old replied: “Missing games through injury. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have many injuries but the last year has brought me some setbacks.”

Roche tore her hamstring in June 2017 and suffered a leg fracture three months later. She was back running on the treadmill in December but isn’t any closer to a return.

Now in March, the striker still hasn’t returned to the first-team, but she’s been cheering on her Sunderland teammates as they seek a top-half finish in the WSL 1.

The Black Cats are still in the FA Cup too, facing Manchester City in the quarter-finals on Sunday, March 18.

“We’ve had a very good cup run and the girls have given their all in the league. I think we can finish fifth behind the big four but will push to finish as high as possible. We have a good group of ambitious players and staff,” Stephanie said.

HETTON, ENGLAND – MAY 21: Stephanie Roche of Sunderland Ladies during the WSL 1 match between Sunderland AFC Ladies and Chelsea Ladies FC at Hetton Centre on May 21, 2017 in Hetton, England.(The FA via Getty Images)

Sunderland have missed Roche on the pitch and so have the Republic of Ireland. The striker has made 50 caps for the national team, the last of which came back in September 2017.

Ireland have suffered much disappointment on the international stage, something Stephanie says she’s determined to change.

“Not qualifying for the last European Championships and World Cup (was a low moment). Hopefully that can be changed soon.

“Scoring the winner in my home debut for the senior team (was a career high). In five years’ time, I hope to say I’ve played in a major tournament with Ireland.”

Roche has led an eventful career so far, having been an unknown in her home country before becoming a viral sensation.

A wonder goal for Peamount United against Wexford Youths was voted second in the Puskas awards, and Stephanie admitted: “The Puskas nomination and Ballon d’Or ceremony was up there.”

Roche with husband Dean Zambra, then of Bray Wanderers’.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. After 2014, Roche had a difficult time playing in France with ASPTT Albi and the US with Dash, before suffering a serious throat condition in 2016.

In April 2017, the 28-year-old cited how the lack of money in the women’s game made it hard to make a living from, but “never wanted to quit, as football made me what I am”.

Now, her focus is on recovering and playing for years to come. “(In five years), I hope to be still playing at some level,” she said.

Her Sunderland side are currently seventh in the WSL 1 table, coming off the back of two wins from their last four league games.

We wish Stephanie and the Black Cats all the best this season. Thanks for speaking with The Sophist.

Published by Crippy

Sports journalist who is an avid football fan, enjoys debunking transfer rumours, loves to write pieces on players out in the cold and takes a large amount of pride getting a predicted XI 100% correct.

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