"In what they can lift, I'd say everyone has gone up 30 or 40kg strength-wise" - ladies game only getting better 1 month ago

"In what they can lift, I'd say everyone has gone up 30 or 40kg strength-wise" - ladies game only getting better

The Meath ladies footballers had tunnel-vision this year, their minds and hearts set on their county commitments and this single-mindedness, according to Vikki Wall had a key part to play in the team's success.

Dunboyne is where the heart is for this inspirational centre forward but in this day and age, and with the demands of inter-county GAA rising year on year, Wall called a spade a spade when she said that, in the pursuit of glory at the highest level, it's impossible to give as much you'd like to give to the grass-roots.

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And for her, to be missing club games and to be missing club trainings, that felt like a huge sacrifice.

"People might have had the thought of going travelling or doing J1s this year but obviously that wasn't a possibility," says the PWC Player of the Month for September.

"So for us, county has been our club this year. Yesterday, for example, was the first match I've played with my club since last October."

"I think that definitely helped us that we got to fully commit to county. We weren't going to and from the club and that's why I'd definitely be in favour of the split season.

"I know it probably didn't really help Dunboyne, the fact that we have five on the team, they probably didn't have us for the league so that probably didn't help them, but in contrast it really did help the county this year with the fact that we got to fully commit to it and fully focus on it."

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But all's well that ends well, and that sacrifice certainly paid off in the end. It's a fortnight on from their day in the sun now and as Wall thinks back on the highs of the last fortnight, as she thinks back on the lows of 2018 and 2019, she gives a great account of what life is like in the aftermath of the big day.

"I was only having a conversation the other day with Maire O'Shaughnessy," says Wall.

"And she was saying, you know, the week after the 2019 All-Ireland final, it was up there with some of the worst weeks I've ever had. It's so emotionally draining, you're building yourself up for such a game and obviously everyone goes in thinking they're going to win it and you know, regardless of whether you win or lose, the comedown from an All-Ireland is tough.

"We spent the entire week after with the girls and then you're back to club. It's zero, it's cold turkey and you just slot back in."

Given her brilliant blend of pace and power, the questions about a potential AFLW move were always going to come but for now, to Meath's relief, this centre forward is sitting tight.

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"It's something I wouldn't rule out in the future, but at the moment I'm happy, I'm going back to do my masters in DCU, starting this week. I'll be here for this year, and committing to Meath this year, and really hoping to do well again next year."

The progress in coaching and support in the ladies game has helped make her the athlete she is and for Wall, the game is only going to get better and better.

"From when I came in, in 2015, there has been such a difference. It's definitely evident on the team. Even if you look at the scores we did, for testing on the team, from what we got a few years ago, I'd say everyone has gone up 30 or 40kg strength-wise, in what they can lift. That's definitely huge. Even in the senior ranks, they're letting more physicality go, so it's definitely something I think that will have to continue over the next few years."
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We'll leave the last word though, because this is the reason Meath are All-Ireland champions, to her take on how Meath's winning team in 2021, was different to their losing team in 2018 and 2019.

"When I think back to the 2019 All-Ireland when we were losing, in the last five minutes I was thinking, 'Oh God, we've lost this. It's gone.' But against Cork I actually wasn't thinking a huge amount, it was literally just let's get the next ball and stuff like that.

"It was a bit of a strange one. I think we were so focused on getting the next ball that I don't think anyone was looking at the clock and thinking it was gone from us or slipped away. It was instinct, just trying to get the next ball and the next score."

And that's exactly what they did.

20 September 2021; PwC GPA Player of the Month for ladies’ football in September, Vikki Wall of Meath, with her award today at her home club Dunboyne GAA in Meath. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
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