Updated Feb 27th 2021, 9:11 PM
MEATH ALL-IRELAND WINNER Vikki Wall has opened up about the regular verbal abuse — related to her weight — she has been subjected to from the sideline and stands while playing inter-county football.
Wall, who was named Intermediate Players’ Player of the Year on TG4′s ladies football awards programme, ‘Peil na mBan – Foirne na Bliana – le AIG Insurance,’ tonight, used her winning interview to speak about her horrific experiences for the first time.
The 22-year-old candidly detailed how, for several years, she and her family had to listen to regular insults about her during games.
“Since 2017, when I was in sixth year, I put on 10 or 12 kg that year,” she began. “That changed the way I played the game, you know?”
Emotional at times, she continued: “To be honest from 2017 to 2019, I heard something in every single game about my weight. Especially from managers on the sideline or people like that.
“Even last year, I got a call from one of the managers saying he was sorry after one of the games about the things he said the day before. You don’t forget those things. They stay with you.
“On a few occasions, my Mam was next to a woman who said I was too fat to play football and things like that. I’ve lost that weight now but yeah… many things have changed personally and team-wise as well.”
Dunboyne star Wall — who was also named at centre-half forward on the Intermediate Team of the Championship — touched on her personal story while discussing the wider difficult journey her side endured en route to 2020 All-Ireland glory.
A fluent Irish speaker, she did so all as Gaeilge.
“Many things have changed since I came into the panel in 2015 to this year,” she explained. “Many of the girls have come back.
“We had around 32 girls this year and in 2015 when we were playing against Cork we had to ring people the day before to ask if they wanted to play the following day. We lost by 40 points that day so it was terrible but it has completely changed now this year.”
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Fast forward a few years to 2018 from that dark in ’15, Meath reached the All-Ireland intermediate final only to fall short at the hands of Tyrone.
In 2019, Tipperary broke their hearts in the Croke Park decider.
Wall detailed the doubts about whether they would ever get over the line which followed, along with the self-evaluation as the verbal abuse directed at her came to a head.
In 2020, the Royals made it third time lucky in the showpiece against Westmeath.
Wall facing Westmeath in Croke Park in December.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
That said, it didn’t happen without a few scares along the way, as Wall recalls. A blitz of early goals and a devastating knee injury to her sister, Sarah, made things difficult for Meath, but Vikki stepped up with 1-3 in a Player of the Match-winning performance to inspire her side to the elusive Mary Quinn Memorial Cup for the first time.
“The first few minutes of that game are mixed up in my mind. When they got the goal, I thought, ‘Is this going to happen again?’
“When Sarah went down with her knee, I didn’t know how bad it was. She was crying but we were kind laughing and she was saying that she could keep playing. But she stood up and she was only standing on one leg, saying she could keep playing. When she left the pitch, I was angry on one hand but I was also upset for her.
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“She tore her ACL in transition year too and I knew the work she put in to get back on the team. It was very difficult to watch her leave the pitch. When I got the ball after Sarah left the pitch I was livid. So I think that played a part in the goal.
“At the final whistle, I was on the sideline with Sarah after getting the yellow card. Mam was saying he gave me that so I could celebrate with Sarah at the final whistle! But yeah, it was amazing. That’s the dream when you play football with your county, to win the All-Ireland final in Croke Park.”
Is Vikki Wall's solo effort for @meathladiesMLGF the best goal scored in the 2020 @LadiesFootball championship? 🏐 🏆
Watch the full list of nominees and cast your vote for a chance to win a €500 voucher for @ONeills1918 here👉 https://t.co/nK6nBgdEjk#EffortIsEqual pic.twitter.com/BQtbTfkUXV
— AIG Ireland (@AIGIreland) February 23, 2021
That goal she speaks of was a memorable one, and one which was nominated for Goal of the Year alongside a host of other top-drawer finishes.
But the Player of the Year award surely puts the icing on top of an unforgettable 2020 ladies football season in which Wall starred on and off the pitch, doing some analysis on TG4 when she wasn’t caught up with her own inter-county commitments.
“To win this award, it’s definitely special,” she concluded, after pipping her clubmate Emma Duggan and Westmeath’s Fiona Claffey to the prize.
“Being voted by the players, I definitely was surprised. I would have had conversations on the pitch this year! It’s an unbelievable honour, to be honest. I’m absolutely chuffed and delighted to have been given the award.”
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