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‘I’m Enjoying The Challenges’ – Vikki Wall On Her Sevens Switch

‘I’m Enjoying The Challenges’ – Vikki Wall On Her Sevens Switch

‘I’m Enjoying The Challenges’ – Vikki Wall On Her Sevens Switch

Ireland Sevens newcomer Vikki Wall is pictured during the squad's pitch session at the IRFU High Performance Centre on Friday ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Meath Gaelic football star Vikki Wall was a notable inclusion in the Ireland Women’s Sevens squad (sponsored by TritonLake), which was announced on Friday ahead of the start of the 2024 HSBC SVNS season.

It is a significant step for Wall who, having first been contacted by IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora last December about switching to Sevens rugby, is hoping to make the cut and play at the 2024 Olympics in Paris next summer.

A two-time All-Ireland Senior Football Championship with Meath, she also enjoyed a spell in the AFLW with North Melbourne before joining the National Sevens programme in August.

She admits that the transition into Sevens has been a challenging one, but she is ‘slowly but surely getting the hang of it’ on the back of exposure to training camps with other nations, and pre-season trips to play at the Elche 7s and France’s training base in Marcoussis.

“It has been tough, a massive transition into a brand new sport, one I wouldn’t have had much exposure to growing up,” she said. “But no, it’s been good, I’m really enjoying it and enjoying the challenges.”

Ireland Women’s Sevens head coach Allan Temple-Jones comes into the Olympic year with a core group of players that made history by qualifying for the Games for the first time. They did so via last season’s World Sevens Series where they finished fifth overall.

While Wall’s code switch has grabbed the headlines, there are two other recent additions to the squad, Alanna Fitzpatrick and Amy Larn. The young Leinster pair came up through the High Performance pathway and made their Ireland Sevens debuts in Hamburg in July.

Having not played rugby from a young age like Fitzpatrick and Larn, Wall says she has has to strike the right balance between soaking up all that she can as a fast-tracked athlete and showing exactly why she has been brought into an Olympics-bound set-up.

“Definitely there are a lot of challenges. It’s been more challenging in so many different ways. First of all, coming into a team that has already qualified for the Olympics, you definitely have to be conscious of that and then you also have to back yourself as well.

It’s that kind of better of two evils. You can’t walk in the door and be screaming and shouting, and you also have to have some form of confidence from where I’ve come from previously.

“And it’s harder just in terms of the intricacies of it. Things that I do almost instinctively in other games that I could definitely transfer easier to AFLW that definitely don’t transfer to here. Just even running patterns and things as simple as that.

“The timings of the games and the differences in terms of the quickness of thought and things like that. I’m not saying the other two sports don’t have it but it’s just a different level.”

Wall will quickly get used to having to peak at different times of the day through the pool stages and knockout rounds, with the opening HSBC SVNS double header taking place in Dubai (December 2-3) and Cape Town (December 9-10).

The Ireland Women’s squad for Dubai will be announced in the coming days, and Temple-Jones will also bring a Development squad to the desert venue to take part in the Dubai 7s International Invitational tournament.

So, either way, early season game-time will be a given for the 25-year-old Dunboyne native. Her impressive sporting pedigree fills many with the confidence that she will hit the ground running in the upcoming campaign.

The 2021 LGFA Player of the Year, who won All-Ireland medals with the Royal County in 2021 and 2022, has already achieved great heights in her career. The prospect of representing her country was an opportunity she could not turn down.

“There’s an abundance of things. First and foremost I’m able to play for Ireland and that’s an unbelievable opportunity,” she admitted.

“If you told me that when I was younger, I wouldn’t have even foresaw being in rugby, if I’m being perfectly honest. It just wasn’t something I saw in my future.

“And then obviously there is the Olympics at the end of the year and you’re not going to lie to yourself, it’s there.

“But there’s so much to do before that and I’m not naive in knowing how far I am off that at the moment, so I’m breaking it down into next day, next month, whatever it is.

“Just setting myself small goals and I don’t just have one outcome goal of making the squad in 2024. There’s so much more I want to achieve within Sevens rugby.”

Wall is not the first player to make the switch from the county jersey to the green jersey of the Ireland Sevens team. There have been the likes of Lauralee Walsh, Kim Flood, Eimear Considine, Hannah Tyrrell and Louise Galvin in the past, to name but a few.

Ireland’s current captain Lucy Mulhall has a strong GAA background. She played Gaelic football for Wicklow and her local club Tinahely before joining the Sevens programme in 2014. The 30-year-old is the perfect example of how well the transition between sports can work.

Mulhall, the reigning TritonLake Women’s Sevens Player of the Year, has been a good support in helping Wall make her decision to go all in with Sevens. The two players know each other previously from their football days.

“I would have chatted to Lucy a fair few times and one thing that maybe reassured me was how passionate and how involved Lucy still is in Tinahely GAA,” explained Wall.

“I can’t believe I’m giving them a shout-out now! She’s still involved in a huge capacity, even though she’s not playing but how she’s able to be so successful here and still be able to balance things. Lucy is unbelievable, she’s a serious athlete.

“I was slagging her the first day we came in. You have to stand up and do your ‘interesting facts’, struggling for a few and we would have played Lucy’s club in Leinster GAA a few years ago and we beat them in a free-kick shootout, so that was something I reminded her on the first day! But I would have known her (from before).”