Stephanie Roche: ‘For Years We Talked About This Being A Defining Moment, And Now It’s Happened’

"Everywhere you turn you’d see an Irish person, it was really refreshing to see"

Ireland’s World Cup journey may be over, but if one thing’s for sure, the support from fans in Australia has been nothing short of remarkable.

Stephanie Roche was there to see it all. Soccer star, broadcaster, and now a pundit for RTÉ, she has spent the last few weeks offering her commentary on matches, interviewing the squad, and speaking to the many, many Irish fans who made the journey to Australia to support the team. The experience, she says, has been “hectic, but fun.”

“The dream became a reality after the play-off game with Scotland,” she says. “It’s going to mark such a big change, the women’s team on the world stage. It opens up so many opportunities for young girls. As someone who has played with [the team] for years, it’s a major breakthrough.

“For years we talked about this being a defining moment and now it’s happened, and it’s important that we build off that.” 

The Irish squad may not be going home with the result they wanted, but their achievement in getting to the World Cup has not gone unnoticed… especially among the fans who travelled to support them, and lit up the stadiums during each match.

“The atmosphere in the stadium on the first night, it’s just been a month of pure pride,” says Stephanie. “And now even though there’s disappointment that it didn’t go the way they wanted it to go, I’m just so proud of the team. They’ve set the tone now, we need to keep building and get to more tournaments. It’s one of the best feelings to be here and to support them. 

“Even walking around Brisbane and Sydney, everywhere you turn you’d see an Irish person, it was really refreshing to see. We were on Bondi Beach and we ran into these three Irish guys and I was like ‘oh are you living here?’ and there were like ‘no we’re here for the games.’

“That was unbelievable, you never would’ve seen that before – three young lads who probably never ever watched women’s football a few years ago travelling to see it. It’s been great having so many fans there, the girls really appreciated it.”

We may finally be seeing a turning point for women in sport, and the visibility attributed to them. Where many once had no idea that the Irish women’s team were even playing a match, now fans are travelling across the world to see them perform.


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The support, Stephanie says, has been remarkable, but in her new role as a pundit, she’s also cautious of steering clear of criticism – an element that she sees as crucial to the enjoyment of sport, particularly football.

“I’d never slate anyone, I’ve always tried to be as positive as possible, it’s so important to give women’s football that,” she says. “But it’s also important for me to call it like I see it. If someone makes a howler, and I pat them on the head, that’s patronising.

“The girls are so understanding of the position I’m in now, to be critical when I need to be. I don’t think there’s enough criticism and that might seem like a strange thing to say. But if we’re always saying ‘the girls are great, the girls are brilliant,’ that can be borderline patronising, they’re not being seen as equal athletes.

“I think we’re still getting over that hurdle, we want honest opinions as athletes, not just as women. I have a responsibility to ensure I’m giving equality across the board on what I see on the pitch.” 

Stephanie is an ambassador for Circle K’s new ‘Bricks for Care’ fundraising initiative in aid of the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation .