David Hennessy spoke to the Irish lady looking to beat Robin Van Persie and James Rodriguez to the coveted Puskas Award.
“I’m there on merit,” Ireland’s female football sensation Stephanie Roche tells The Irish World. There may be something of a novelty about an Irish woman making the short list for the 2014 FIFA Puskas Award, for the best goal of the yearbut Roche has been internationally acclaimed since her stunning strike for Peamount United in Dublin against Wexford Youths went viral. Named in the final three with Robin Van Persie of Manchester United and James Rodriguez of Real Madrid, voting continues and the winner will be announced on January 12. Stephanie is both the first female and the first Irish person to make this final three.
When asked if making the final list with these stars seems surreal, Roche says: “My goal seems to be one of the best in the world so I don’t want to go and look like I’m a fan. I want to look like I’m meant to be there. That’s what I’m looking forward to.
“I’m a Manchester United fan so it’s going to be great to meet Van Persie and the likes of him who are fantastic footballers but at the same time, I have to be professional about it and approach it the right way.”
Asked if she is confident about claiming the coveted prize, Roche answers: “I’m trying not to think about it too much. Obviously I’m trying to get as many votes as I can and trying to publicise it as much as I can. It’s been getting a lot of positive feedback. At the minute, I haven’t actually thought about the awards themselves so I think maybe the day of the awards or the day before I’ll probably start to get nervous alright.”
Stephanie’s goal was breathtaking for how she controlled a cross expertly, flicked it over her marker and spun to finish on the volley from 20 yards. From first control to the net, the ball hadn’t touched the ground. Among those to speak highly of her technique were Ian Wright, Gary Lineker, John Hartson and world cup winner Laurent Blanc: “There’s been quite a few. I did the Ian Wright radio show so I spoke to him personally so it was obviously great to hear him. He said it was the best goal he had ever seen.
“John Hartson talked about it on BBC and kind of analysed the goal. That was nice to see. He was saying technically it’s the best goal and he was really nice about it. That’s probably the one that sticks out the most.”
Did Ireland’s boxing champion Katie Taylor, a former international team mate of Stephanie’s, offer congratulations? “Yeah, she did on Twitter. I played with Katie for a couple of years and know her. She’s a lovely girl. She’s been fantastic for Irish sport over the last few years. It was great to get any sort of support from her.”
For the full interview with Stephanie, see the January 10 Irish World.
You can vote for Stephanie to win the Puskas Award by going to http://www.fifa.com/ballon-dor/puskas-award/.