Irish Times Sportswoman of the Month - September
While it’s been a year like few others for our sportswomen on the international front, it was back home in September that Meath produced one of the stories of this or any other year when they beat Dublin to win their first ever senior All Ireland football title.
Their 1-11 to 0-12 victory over a team going for their fifth successive All Ireland was one of the biggest upsets the women’s game has ever seen, perhaps the biggest of the lot.
Meath’s story has been well documented at this stage, but it’s worth recalling that it was only four years before that they chose to drop down to intermediate level because they were getting so many hammerings by senior opponents, their lowest point a 7-22 to 0-3 trouncing by Cork.
A day like that would be enough to persuade most to hang up their boots, but Vikki Wall was one of three players, along with goalkeeper Monica McGuirk and captain Shauna Ennis, who started in that 40 point defeat back in 2015 who also lined out against Cork in this year’s semi-finals.
When they trailed by seven points with less than five minutes to go, a happy ending looked unlikely, but they completed a remarkable comeback, two goals in the final minute sending the game in to extra time. There was no stopping them by then, a two point victory putting them in to their first ever senior final having only come up from the intermediate ranks the year before.
Wall, the 2020 Intermediate Player of the Year, has been a huge part of her county’s rise from the ashes of those dark days when, as she put it herself, “all we did was lose”.
And it was the 23-year-old who set the tone in a thriller of a final when her driving run from midfield in the first minute led to a free which Stacey Grimes converted. When Emma Duggan lobbed Dublin goalkeeper Ciara Trant from distance to score the game’s only goal, putting Meath four points up, Wall’s pre-match insistence that they were capable of rattling the defending champions looked less fanciful.
It was a stunning performance from Eamonn Murray’s side who held their nerve when Dublin edged their way back in to the game, Wall’s tireless player-of-the-match display a major factor in their success.
By now, the Dunboyne woman is weighed down by awards, among them the GPA footballer of the month for both August and September. Her mantelpiece could yet become even more cluttered after she was nominated, along with team-mates Duggan and Emma Troy, for the player of the year award, as well as for an All Star. And to the collection, she can add our sportswoman of the month for September.