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Stephanie Roche on the challenges of commentating on friends and teammates

Stephanie Roche on commentary challenges, individual and team goals, and her future in media.

Stephanie Roche has been speaking about the challenges of commentating on friends and teammates from the Ireland squad, as they look to seal World Cup qualification.

The Peamount forward was recalled to Vera Pauw’s squad for the meeting with Georgia in June but was back on RTE commentary duty for the recent wins over Finland and Slovakia.

While the six points earned from those games secured a play-off spot against Scotland or Austria, there were moments in the both 1-0 wins when Roche needed to be critical of some of the decision-making on the pitch.

Stephanie Roche: “It’s important to call what you see.”

“It’s difficult, obviously,” said Roche, told Pundit Arena at the launch of the Just Eat Hits the Spot Champions League College Roadshow.

“I don’t think I’ve ever slated anybody, I don’t think I ever would. It’s not part of me to do that but at the same time, I’m being paid to give my opinion and I have to be quite honest.

“I know all of the girls quite well, even the younger girls coming through, I would have been part of squads with them so I know none of them would ever go out to play poorly or give the ball away at times.

“At the same time, you have to call it as it is in the game. For me, it’s important to view the game the same way you would a men’s game. If I’m watching Ireland’s men’s team or – I’m a big Manchester United fan – watching United, I’d criticise players when they’re not doing well.

“For me, not to do that with the Ireland women would be a little bit patronising. You have to call what you see but at the same time, as a player who’s been involved with the squads, I’m always going to be as positive as possible.

“It’s important to be critical when needed because the viewers at home are watching the same game you are, you have to make sure that they know that we can perform better than this.”

Women’s National League form.

Roche has 14 goals to her name in this season’s Women’s National League, including a crucial winner in a 1-0 win over Shelbourne at Tolka Park last weekend.

This places her two goals behind the joint-top scorers at the time of writing, namely Peas teammate Áine O’Gorman, and Wexford’s Ellen Molloy.

The win over Shels leaves Peamount on 43 points, with the Tolka Park outfit on 48, while Wexford sit top on 49, and with just five games to go, Roche has individual and team honours in her sights.

“It’s definitely a motivation,” says the 2014 Fifa Puskas Award runner-up, when asked if she has ambitions to finish as the Women’s National League top scorer this season.

“If I don’t win it, hopefully I can help Áine win it. We know ourselves with Peamount, we haven’t been great this season but getting the win against Shels the other day was a great win for us.

“It gives us something to focus on towards the end of the season. We saw what happened with us at the end of last season, how nobody saw us losing out on the title and we did.

“There’s a chase on now and Wexford have gone top, we still have to play them, they have to play Shels, there are a lot of games still to be played.

“All we can do is concentrate on winning the games. For me, the main aim is to try and catch the leaders and see if we can make it a bit of a title race towards the end of the season and, obviously, if I can get a few goals along the way, that would be great.”

International dreams.

On the international front, Roche hasn’t yet given up on getting back involved with the Ireland set-up, and a potential trip to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.

“That’s the dream,” she adds. “I’ve been part of this team for so many years and not being in the team can be disappointing. For me, it’s all about Ireland doing well and if I can be part of that, great and if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.

“All I can do is concentrate on Peamount and play well, give a good account of myself and hopefully put myself in a position to be selected but if that doesn’t happen, I’ll be their number one supporter, whether in the studio or on commentary.

Stephanie Roche: The analyst.

That’s a setting where Roche now feels at home, after a number of years analysing and commentating on games for various media outlets.

Looking ahead to the future, the role is one which the 33-year-old wants to continue.

“I’ve been doing it with RTE for quite a while and doing a bit with Premier Sports for the Premier League every now and again,” she says.

“I’ve started doing more commentary over the past couple of months with the Women’s Euros so I’ve enjoyed that. Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I love football so to get a job working about football is the dream. If you’re not playing it, you’re able to sit and talk about it.

“It’s definitely a job that I enjoy doing. A lot of work goes into it, a lot of preparation, a lot of research and making sure you know what you’re talking about. I do enjoy it and hopefully the opportunities will keep coming.”

Roche was speaking at the launch of the Just Eat Hits the Spot Champions League College Roadshow at DCU on Tuesday morning.

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