"The last few months have been really good" - Interview with Meath star Vikki Wall

After a couple of misfires in the TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Finals of 2018 and 2019, Meath’s Vikki Wall thinks the Royals are ready to be a force in Senior football when the 2021 Championship starts.

A convincing win against Westmeath in December’s Croke Park final secured Meath’s return to the top flight for this season, and Wall’s stunning individual goal, which was voted the second best goal of the year, helped ease her side’s nerves in the second half.

Promotion to the Senior Championship means four-in-a-row champions Dublin will their first Championship opponents in the Leinster Final – if the provincial championships are played in 2021 – and five years on from their relegation, Wall says Meath are ready to cut loose.

“We lost by 40 points [against Cork in 2015] and it is one of the lowest points in my time playing with Meath,” said Wall, who was speaking at the launch of the Gaelic Games Player Pathway, a joint initiative with the LGFA, the GAA and the Camogie Association.

“To get back where we are after the heartache that we’ve had it was something that drove us on the last couple of years. We still have a few girls playing now that would have been playing against Cork. It is big improvements and too see those improvements in the last few years it is huge.

“The last few months have been really good. We were delighted to finally get the win to get up to Senior. I think it definitely is different. We are not naive in the fact that we have big challenges ahead against us this year.”

She continued: “If the provincial goes ahead we will be playing a straight [Leinster] final against Dublin. Look, you are playing against Senior All-Ireland champions in a possible first match. We know that we have to increase our physicality and strength so preparations will be a bit different.

“I think if we are to admit it to ourselves, in 2018 when we were playing against Tyrone [in the Intermediate Championship Final], if we had gone up Senior I probably would question how we would have survived.

“But we had a few more years’ experience under our belts now. I’d be more confident in the fact that we can compete up in Senior and probably hold our own. We don’t want to be coming up to go straight back down. Definitely we are a lot more confident this year.

“You want to be playing against the best. That has been our goal since we got relegated to Intermediate a few years ago. We are happy to be back up and playing against the best.”

The Dunboyne forward, who was named as the TG4 Intermediate Players Player of the Year for 2020, is facing into her seventh season as a Meath senior, and she is one of 15 of the 30 players involved last season who have been with Meath since their last time as a Senior team in 2016.

According to Wall, the Gaelic Games Player Pathway is a very positive step with all three organisations involved, a move she hopes will reduce the number of young girls stepping away from the sport during their teenage years.

“From a personal point of view, I think for players as a whole, it is definitely positive. I think seeing the three organisations working together on this player pathway is huge. It is a positive and an encouraging sign to see the three organisations working together.

“I definitely think [player retention is an issue] but the fact the Player Pathway focuses so strongly on the club is a huge thing. Especially with women around the 16 and 17; it’s a pivotal age. If you go into a club as a male or female now, underage in a nursery, that you can see a clear pathway that’s equal to both. I think that will hopefully tackle a bit of the retention issues.”

To coincide with her Player of the Year award, Wall took part in an interview with TG4, during which she revealed the verbal abuse she has suffered regarding her weight between 2017 and 2019. According to Wall, she has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the support she has received since, especially from young players who have reached out directly to her.

“It was something that I had given a huge amount of thought and I said I would bring it up in the interview, but I definitely didn’t expect the reaction it has gotten so far.

“I’m overwhelmed by it but I also think it’s been really encouraging and the fact that a lot of younger girls have reached out to me. I obviously realised it is a problem, but the fact that people reached out to me with similar stories, having a bit of extra conversation about the topic is definitely not a bad thing.

“When I reflect on it, I think that if I didn’t have such a love for the game, if I didn’t have that underlying confidence in myself, I definitely do think it could have gone a different way.

“When I look back it probably did affect me a lot more that I would have liked to admit at the time. The strong love I have for the game definitely helped me, but I do think it did affect me.”


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