NO TEAM has been busier in the Women’s National League off-season than Peamount United but they saved the most eye-catching for last as Ireland international Steph Roche was unveiled.
The 54-times-capped Irish international from a year in Serie A with CF Florentia, having taken in France, the United States and England on her travels.
She joins new arrivals Alannah McEvoy (Shelbourne) and Sadhbh Doyle (Galway) at the club, while former Peas winger Sara McKevitt has also returned following a year with Wexford Youths.
Former Peamount and Ireland playmaker Tiegan Ruddy has also returned following a spell at college in America, though she is still in recovery mode from a serious knee injury.
It’s the arrival of Roche that will set tongues wagging as the return of such a household name will raise the profile of a league that continues to lose its best talent to professional football abroad.
The 30-year-old was nominated for the coveted FIFA Puskas Award for best goal, eventually losing out to Colombia striker James Rodriguez, for a stunning 2014 strike against Wexford Youths.
That goal, caught on video by her then-Peas manager and now member of the Irish set-up, Eileen Gleeson, propelled her to national and international fame.
Spells with ASPTT Albi, Houston Dash and Sunderland followed before, following a nasty knee injury sustained on international duty, she signed for Florentia at the beginning of last year.
Following a globe-trotting six years, Roche has opted to return to Dublin and her former club Peamount, where she will join up with James O’Callaghan’s league champions.
“Everybody knows the name of Steph, from the goal she got, so she’s a high-profile player,” O’Callaghan told Dublin Gazette.
“She scored the goal for Peamount and she’s been on the journey she’s been on and she’s coming back home now, and she’s coming back to Peamount, so it’s great to have.
“Steph has been on amazing journey since she got that amazing goal. She was finishing up in Italy and it was an opportunity to bring her back to Peamount, and she’s another exciting player.
“She’s a great influence. The experience she got from playing abroad has made her a better player than when she left. I’m hoping she can use that experience and be a great help with the younger players in the team.”
Roche was recalled to the Ireland set-up after a long injury recovery but was left out of Vera Pauw’s most recent squad for the home game with Greece and trip to Montenegro in March.
“She was brought back into the squad recently but, for whatever reason,she’s not in the latest one,” O’Callghan added.
“She’s back with Peamount now and hopefully she can put in some good performances and get back into that squad.
“The Women’s National League is a very good standard. It’s improving all the time. I know it’s amateur at the moment.
“I’d like to think, down the road, it could even get up to semi-professional standard. Players coming back into the league, the likes of Steph, can only help that process.”