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Saturday 21 October 2017

Versatile Roche in line to make one hundredth Senior appearance

Alan Aherne

Shane Roche displaying a safe pair of hands in the 2014 championship defeat to Dublin in Croke Park
Shane Roche displaying a safe pair of hands in the 2014 championship defeat to Dublin in Croke Park

If, as expected, Shane Roche is selected in the number one jersey for Sunday's game, the Geraldine O'Hanrahans club member will mark the occasion with his one hundredth appearance for the county Senior team.

The long-serving New Ross man would more than likely have passed this milestone at some stage in the league campaign were it not for two factors: an injury sustained during the warm-up against London when he received a blow from a football, and the decision to give reserve netminders Conor Swaine and Richard Farrell game-time in the dead rubber games against Westmeath and Carlow.

Roche is following in the footsteps of his father, John, who also manned the posts for the county in the Leinster Senior championship in the mid-eighties.

However, what sets the versatile Shane apart from fellow centurions on the squad is that he featured outfield in the majority of his previous campaigns and was a prolific scorer chiefly from the corner-forward berth.

Indeed, his full Senior debut for Wexford actually arrived in a championship tie: the All-Ireland third round qualifier against Fermanagh in Enniskillen on July 15, 2006, when he came off the bench to replace Paddy Colfer in a 2-12 to 0-11 loss.

Roche made one more substitute's appearance in the 2007 championship, in another qualifier exit to Fermanagh, this time in the first round in Clones.

His first point scored at this level was a vital one after replacing Adrian Flynn in the memorable 2-14 to 2-13 comeback win over Meath at Sunday's venue on June 1, 2008.

And three weeks later he grabbed another point after making another substitute's appearance in the 0-18 to 0-12 Leinster semi-final victory over Laois in Croke Park.

He was subsequently brought on in three of the four remaining games in that memorable campaign: the provincial final defeat to Dublin, the qualifier win over Down, and the 0-23 to 1-14 All-Ireland semi-final loss to Tyrone when he scored a point.

After coming off the bench yet again in the 2009 Leinster quarter-final defeat to Kildare in Carlow, Roche was rewarded for his patience with his first championship start at full-forward in the 2-11 to 0-16 home qualifier win over Offaly, scoring a vital goal in the process.

He retained his place in the attack for both the draw and subsequent defeat to Roscommon, contributing a point in both games.

The secondary schoolteacher started all four championship games in 2010 against Dublin, London, Galway and Cork respectively, scoring 0-2 and 1-2 in the first two outings.

And 2011 saw him inflict considerable pain on Sunday's opponents Carlow in the Leinster semi-final in Croke Park when he bagged 2-4 from play in a 4-12 to 0-10 success.

He had featured earlier in that campaign against Offaly and Westmeath (scoring 0-1), and went on play at left corner-forward in the 2-12 to 1-12 provincial final loss to Dublin before coming on and picking off a point in the qualifier reversal to Limerick.

Roche started all four championship ties in 2012, versus Longford (draw and replay), Dublin and Tipperary, contributing 0-12 in total.

He was right corner-forward in the 0-18 to 0-13 Leinster semi-final loss to Meath in 2013, and was brought on earlier versus Louth plus in the subsequent qualifiers against Longford (0-2) and Laois.

A very talented soccer goalkeeper during his teenage years, Roche moved back to man the posts in 2014 and played in all three championship clashes with Longford, Dublin and Laois.

He was the first choice versus Westmeath the following year but then sustained an injury against Down which forced him off before half-time, missing the qualifier defeat to Derry as a result.

With Anthony Masterson back between the posts, Roche featured again as a forward last season, introduced as a substitute versus Kildare and Fermanagh and scoring a point in both outings.

The Castletown man's retirement ensured another move to the opposite square for the Barrowsider in 2017, but it's interesting to note that he has scored 10-115 in a Wexford jersey thus far.

Stopping, rather than scoring, will be the main aim this Sunday for Roche who will follow in the footsteps of colleagues Brian Malone, Adrian Flynn, Ciarán Lyng, P.J. Banville and Ben Brosnan with his one hundredth appearance.

The experience brought to bear by this long-serving sextet will be of crucial importance to Wexford.

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