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'If I heard my Dad talking like that about players I'd be disgusted'

How do you react on a sideline if you hear someone shouting abuse at a teenage girl? For Meath's ...

'If I heard my Dad talking lik...

'If I heard my Dad talking like that about players I'd be disgusted'

How do you react on a sideline if you hear someone shouting abuse at a teenage girl?

For Meath's Vikki Wall, it was a situation her own parents have had to deal with in the past. The All-Ireland Intermediate winner has spoken recently about her experiences being abused from the sideline about her weight, and the impact it's had on her, not to mention the impact it's had on her friends, teammates and family.

Wall's account of abuse from opposition managers over her weight in recent seasons, the latest chapter in a string of first-person evidence from Irish athletes about being abused both in the flesh and online.

This morning, Wall joined Ger and Eoin on OTB AM to speak about the GPA's announcement that 100 female inter-county players have been awarded scholarship funding as they continue their third-level studies, an 82% increase in the number of recipients. 

As part of the conversation, she brought up the big question that has faced all those who have witnessed similar abuse; how do you find the balance between challenging the abuser, and feeding the troll?

"I had this conversation with my Mam and Dad at the weekend, I talked to them more about it since I was on TG4.

"My Mom was even saying 'should we have said more?'. She had witnessed it, she had heard it, and she was of the opinion that you don't want to be feeding these people, and letting them talk more. She took the stance of just ignoring it and continuing on, but it's hard to know what the best outcome is at the time," she said.

What was most striking about her ordeal however, was the fact that the abuse wasn't coming from another player, who may have been able to reach for the easy excuse of immaturity. Rather, it was opposition managers, middle-aged men who may have had daughters and sons themselves.

It was this notion specifically that has stuck with Vikki.

"I personally would say it was more management than players. From my own experience it was more so managers.

"I tried to look at it in the sense of 'I'm doing something well if they're trying to do this', but you can only have that mindset for so long when it's a 40 or 50-year-old man standing on the sideline roaring abuse at you. I got a phonecall the next day apologising, from one of them in particular.

"It's a strange concept, I think of my Dad and myself and Sarah (her sister) who are young females, and if I heard my Dad talking like that to anyone on my team I'd be disgusted."

For Wall herself, her determination was to silence the abuse with what she could do on the pitch, even though the words were having a huge impact on her self-esteem.

"Personally I would have just tried to get another goal or get another point, that's how I would have tried to react. It's hard not to react personally. I know a lot of my teammates would have turned around and told them to stop and give over. Hearing that for them isn't nice either. We're obviously very close as a team. I think it's a tricky one to deal with. Hindsight is a great thing after it's happened, you look back and wish you did this and that, but when it's happening emotions take over," she added.

The abusive comments in question came after she had put on weight during her Leaving Cert studies, and she says it left a significant toil on her wellbeing.

And highlighting the girls who leave organised sport forever in their late teens, she stresses the need to clamp down on it.

"It was probably more on the club scene than the county scene. Like I said, I don't know if I fully thought about it before, the effect it would have.

"I didn't think it would have such a huge response, it was hugely positive. I'm not the first person to put on weight through my leaving cert, I'm not claiming that. I suppose I put on a significant amount between 2017 and 2019. It definitely effected the way I played.

"We look at the drop out rates in ladies football, and it is at those pivotal teenage years. When you're that age, you are vulnerable, and if it's something you're conscious of in your own mind in your bedroom, when someone says it in public and you hear it on the sidelines, I think it does have a big impact and it's something we do need to look into more. If it's under-eating or over-eating, there's no place for it to be mentioned on a pitch," she said.




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Meath GAA Social Media Abuse Vikki Wall