Wall honoured at Sportswoman Awards

Vikki Wall was honoured at the recent Irish Times / Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year Awards for her player-of-the-match performance in last year’s All-Ireland SFC final.

The 23-year-old Dunboyne player, led from the front with a tireless display in Meath’s stunning victory over five-in-a-row seeking Dublin; the performance earning Wall the Sportswoman of the Month award for September.

For Meath, who won the Intermediate championship in 2020, it was a first ever senior All-Ireland title and marked a fairy-tale year for the Royals.

When they trailed Cork by seven points in the semi-final with less than five minutes to go, that happy ending looking highly unlikely. However, they completed a remarkable comeback, two goals in the final minute sending the game in to extra time, where a two-point victory put them in to their first ever senior final.

Meath were later nominated for the RTE Team of the Year, while Wall went on to win a first All-star as well as Meath and Leinster club titles with her club Dunboyne.

For Wall, who’s studying for a Digital Marketing Masters in DCU, and her teammates, it was a year like no other.

This was the 18th year of the awards and Wall was among 12 other monthly award winners nominated for the 2021 title. Other monthly award winners included boxer Kellie Harrington, golfer Leona Maguire and swimmer Ellen Keane.

This year however, unsurprisingly, it was Rachael Blackmore, the first female jockey to win the Aintree Grand National, who was crowned The Irish Times / Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year for 2021.

In what was an outstanding year for sport, but particularly for Irish sportswomen, Blackmore recorded several historic firsts over a three-week period.

In April she steered home 11/1 chance Minella Times to win the world’s most famous steeplechase by six and a half lengths, the first woman to do so in the race’s 172-year history.

Just a few weeks earlier the 32-year-old had become the first female jockey to claim the leading jockey title at Cheltenham as well as the first woman to win the Champion Hurdle, this time on board Honeysuckle, with whom she has established a winning partnership.

Accepting the award in person at the ceremony in Dublin, which was streamed online, Blackmore described winning the award as being really special.

"It’s been such an incredible year for sport and particularly for women in sport. To be nominated is fantastic but to win an award like this, it’s so special, it really is," remarked Blackmore.

"When you look at the people you are up against and their achievements. It’s hard to comprehend that you’ve come out on top of that, it’s unbelievable."

This year’s Outstanding Achievement Award went to Team Ireland medallists Tokyo 2020, the nine women who performed superbly at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, winning seven medals in total.

The nine include Kellie Harrington, who became only the second Irish woman to win a gold medal in boxing, Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty, who won bronze in rowing, the first Irish women to win a team Olympic medal, Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal, who won two gold and one silver Paralympic medals in track and road cycling and swimmers Ellen Keane and Nicole Turner, who won gold and silver medals respectively at the Paralympics.

The trophy was accepted on behalf of Team Ireland medallists Tokyo 2020 by Eimear Lambe and Ellen Keane at the online awards ceremony.

Other recipients of the 12 monthly awards included golfer Leona Maguire, who excelled as the first Irish woman to represent Europe in the Solheim Cup – she went on win four and a half points; cricketer Amy Hunter who turned 16 on the day she scored 121 runs for Ireland against Zimbabwe in Harare, an achievement which made her the youngest player, male or female, to score a one-day international century; boxer Katie Taylor, who picked up her 15th monthly award; and Arsenal and Ireland international soccer star Katie McCabe.