Wicklow GAA Greats – An Interview With Padge McWalter

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Padge McWalter

A man who has been at the pinnacle of every sport he has taken up be it League of Ireland with UCD, County Football with Wicklow or winning Senior Football Titles with St Pats, he has seen and done it all. His success and achievement comes from hard graft and an extreme resilience, bouncing back from extremely nasty injuries in his career to continue to be one of the finest players to grace our football fields. We had a chat with Padge about his career and a few bits and it went something like this:

Our Chat With Padge:

 

 

Q. You’ve had a highly successful career in many codes with St Pats, Wicklow and UCD being some of the sides you lined out for. Could you give us a brief overview of your sporting career from a nipper to current day?

A. I suppose growing up I played both the soccer and football. We had some great success underage with pats winning two minor championships but after my Leaving Cert I got a soccer scholarship to UCD and so I concentrated mainly on soccer for a few years. In 2009 I joined the Wicklow panel and left soccer behind. I played a few years with the county before retiring in 2015 and now I am just trying to scrape together some medals with the club before I finish up playing altogether.


Q. You played at the top level in Irish Soccer, how would you say the training and approach then compared to that of the Wicklow County team and also to current club GAA training with St Pats?

A. At that time some of the teams in the LOI were full time but UCD were part time so it was quite similar to the county team schedule with training 3 nights a week and a game at the weekend. When I joined UCD in 2002 the sports science aspect was only coming in and we had access to some of that in UCD. When I joined the Wicklow team in 2009 Micko preferred a lot of the old school running so that was a big difference but it worked well for him and the team. I feel things have moved on massively now. You see the work that is being done with our underage county teams it feels like we are preparing players to compete and be successful which is very encouraging.


Q. The performances of the Wicklow Minors in particular have been hugely encouraging and as a schoolteacher you would have a good insight into underage players in the county. What do you feel we can do to sustain and improve the talent pool coming from our underage levels in terms of school, club and county level?

A. I think from a school perspective we have to try and get our schools to play at a higher grade. The vast majority of our schools play at C and D level in Leinster and that is something that needs to change. How to achieve it is very difficult.You probably need better coordination between schools and their feeder clubs, you need better standard of coaching in clubs and in the large populated towns we need to try and get more young people playing the game. I know from my own clubs persective we need to increase participation levels in our juvenile teams. At county level the GDA is doing great work but again the coaches would tell you that they would love if all clubs and the best players would commit to it which is not always the case.


Q. You touched on the importance of increasing the participation in our big urban areas. Bray is one of the biggest towns in Ireland with a population in or around 40,000 and has one club with two adult football teams who have not tasted much success in the last few decades. Are we doing enough to promote the game in what is a potentially massive asset and how do you feel we could utilise such a potential asset better?

A. That is a difficult question to answer. I have seen the great work that our GDAs (full time coaches) are doing and in an ideal world we need more of them to help grow the game because it can be hard to get volunteers. However there are more qualified people than me to explain how to tackle that issue.


Q. The GDAs are exceptional and across the codes the work Jonathan Tallon is putting in with Wicklow fielding two minor hurling teams is hugely encouraging. Did you ever try your hand at the small ball game and would it be something you would like to give a shot?

A. No I never played it. I suppose you admire it when u see it on the tv but thats as far as my interest would go


Q. Getting back to the county football part of your career, can you give people an insight of what it was like behind the scenes with Micko. Wicklow GAA was buzzing and getting to last 12 that year, just one win away from an All Ireland Quarter Final was phenomenal and Aughrim was like a Media hub but people would love to know what it was like in camp and the type of training and approach that was taken?

A. Micko was a legend. He brought great confidence to the group and he made us very competitive. His training methods were quite old school and the heavy winter training was tough but when it came to football he knew more than anyone. When you look back to the talent we had it is perhaps a regret that we didnt achieve more and losing to Westmeath in 2010 was a missed opportunity because that year every team in Leinster was beatable unlike the one-sided championship of recent years.


Q. Wicklow took a heavy loss in last years championship to Dublin after a morale boosting victory over Offaly. Seeing the Wicklow Minors going into Parnell Park and coming away with the win was hugely encouraging. They now have a chance to repeat the trick at home this Saturday. Do you feel that counties like Wicklow can progress to continue to match Dublin when these lads get to Senior level or is there truly too big a resources gap?

A. That is the ultimate question.i know there is a big push to introduce a tiered chamionship because many people feel the gap cant be closed but from a positive point of view we are a county that potentially could because our population is going to continue to grow and if we cant get sustained progress underage then anything is possible.we are currently at a very low position so it will undoubtedly take a while.


Q. Would you be in favour of a tiered system?

A. I think it is worth a try because the current system has become a little boring but i would be worried that it could lead a an even greater gap between the top teams and the rest


Q. Returning back to your own career, would you have a favourite moment over the years?

A. Really any of the championships we won with the club my favourite being the first one in 2004.with the county it was that summer in 09 and the down game the highlight


Q. Would you have kissed Tony Hannon’s toes that day if he had asked you too when he slotted that peach?😅

A. I would have had to get in line😂. It was a great score to be fair to him


Q. Do you keep in touch with the lads like Tony who were on the Wicklow team with you and would if you were to be given permission to poach 3 of that 2009 squad for Pats who would you be taking to Dunbur?

A. You would see them now and again but mostly meet them on the pitch. They were a great bunch to play with. If I was to poach three of them I would take Staff, Leighton and Seanie but I doubt they would be too interested in wearing the Pats colours😂


Q. In 10 years time if you decide to hang up the boots would training or managing a team be something that interests you?

A. I’d deffo be interested in doing some coaching when I finish up. I’m involved with our u17s in the club and coach some teams in school and I enjoy it.


Q. What do you put down as the secret to the St Pats teams successes in recent years?

A. Funnily I would feel that we havent enjoyed enough success and because of that last year meant a lot to all the lads because of the near misses of previous years. The reason why we hav been competitive for the last while was probably because we had a good juvenile structure for many years and that produced some good players.we have good coaches and we are also committed to training and so that gives you a chance.


Q. What emerging young players have caught your eye that could have great careers in Wicklow GAA?

A. At the moment we seem to be producing quite a few good players. From this years minor team I thought Eoin Darcy and Eoghan Byrne were two huge prospects whilst from this years team you have Matthew Ging and Eoin Doyle that look the part.


Q. Can you pick your dream 15 from Wicklow GAA players you’ve played with and against?

I kept my selection to players I played with because it was proving too difficult. It is also slightly biased towards some club mates but thats who I played most of my football with and they are more likely to buy me a pint.😂😂



Q. Last Question, Did you ever play as yourself on Fifa?😂

😂😂😂I sure did. I kept playing til i scored a goal which took a while😂


This man has given so much to this county and despite it being a horrific photo to look at, this for us sums up the extreme resilience of Padge and to come back from such an injury and stay at the top of his game is a wonderful indictment of him and it’s no surprise as to why he carries the upmost respect of GAA people in every corner of County Wicklow. A great servant and a complete gentleman, we wish him every success this year and in the future.

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