Friday, March 03, 2023

IT was announced recently that talented teenager Emma Walker would be returning to Wexford for her third season. Walker, who is doing her Leaving Cert this year turned 19 recently and said that it was a no brainer decision to return to Wexford.

“It was pretty obvious for me actually. There really wasn’t a decision to make. Obviously I wanted to go back to Wexford whether they wanted me or not. It wasn’t a tough decision for me, it was pretty clear for me and my family. Training in Carlow makes it easier too. I’ve improved so much over the last two years. I’ve changed into a completely different player so it was a pretty easy decision for me. There’s so many reasons but it’s mainly down to how I’m treated as a person. It’s like such a family, it’s a feeling I haven’t felt in a long time. The minute I got there, the minute I came after Rovers, they just took me in straight away, it was like I was there for years. It really wasn’t a hard decision to make. I get this feeling that when we have training, I get up and I’m so excited. I just think about training and getting there and getting with the girls, it’s such a feeling and it was such a no-brainer to sign again.”

After a promising breakthrough season with Wexford Youths last season, Emma Walker is looking to kick on this season
Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Former player and Irish international, Rianna Jarrett recently re-signed for the club having taken a few years away to go play in England. Walker says it’s been amazing having somebody of Jarrett’s quality to learn from, especially given that they play in the same position.

“It’s unbelievable, oh my god, what a player first of all and an even better person. I’ve known Rianna for years now, she used to train me at ETP (Emerging Talent Programme) and was one of the first players I ever met that kind of just had such an impact on me. She was a top player for Wexford at the time and a top player in the league and for her to be training me, and the advice I got off her was crazy. And now for her to come back, you’re gonna see the difference with her, I’ve probably had two training sessions with her and the difference she’s already made is crazy. The experience she has alone is unbelievable. As she’s in my position, I’d be watching her movement, how can I improve my game, what a player to learn from because I’ve learned so much from her already. She’s unbelievable, and she really looks after the young girls as well. We’re all constantly talking about her, she’s been so good to us so quick. She’ll be a massive difference for us this year.”

She added that pre-season has gone well for her so far and that manager, Stephen Quinn has assured her that she is still part of her plans despite the signings of Jarrett and Emily Corbett in her position.

“It’s going well so far, a little bit less than a month to go now. It’s gone so well, there’s a lot of new faces between players and managers, it is a big change. I’m really looking forward to this year though. I know I said I was looking forward to last year but I feel like this year, with the 19’s as well, we have a strong team and with the players we’re after getting in for the women, I’m really looking forward to it. Pre-season personally though, it’s gone so well, we haven’t lost a game either which always helps. In pre-season for me especially, it’s about building bonds with the new girls and making them feel as welcome as I did. All is going well and I’m just so happy and excited to get going again. We played Cork in the first game and I got 20 odd minutes which was massive, I wasn’t really expecting that so it was really good. That’s what we all aim for and try to do but to get 20 minutes was massive, it was a little bit of a boost, knowing you’re still in it, there’s still 20 odd minutes there for you and you can push on and get more. I didn’t think I would get that much so it was unbelievable.”

As one of the senior members of the Under 19’s this season, Walker is hoping to take on more of a leadership role in the team this year and almost emulate her senior captain, Kylie Murphy in supporting the younger girls coming through from the U17’s.

“Absolutely, I feel like last year I was only new into the 19’s myself, and I tried to be a bit of a leader and I think that started to show a bit more at the end as I was getting older and getting a few more minutes with the seniors. There was other girls doing the same and it was about knowing when to set the standards more so for us. There’s only so much a manager can say, but we’re the ones doing it. We see it from both sides, we get to train with the likes of Kylie Murphy and see what she’s doing and we learn from it. So we tried to be the Kylie Murphy’s of our team. This year is different again, it’s completely different, there’s girls 16 years old with us now who have less experience and are a little bit younger. 19’s is a tough year, it’s that bridge to the seniors, this year there will be more asked of the 19’s, the girls who are training with the seniors. I think we’ve really held ourselves well with it as well, we’re being there for each other. Pre-season is a very tough time, we have to be them leaders, especially if we’re training with the seniors, we have to set that example for the younger girls. I feel like I do have more of a leadership role and I love helping anybody I can, not even trying to be a leader, just trying to be there for each other, even off the pitch. We’re trying to manage team bonding sessions, it’s me and a few other girls, we’re just trying to make sure we’re all alright and building that bond. When it comes to the nitty stuff, we just kinda come alive and be the leaders then. I love it, I absolutely love it. I always put the team before myself, I put my feelings aside to make sure somebody else is alright. Kylie and the way she holds herself, she’s such an example to all of us so we all try to go off her and then bring it down to the 19’s. It’s definitely something I love doing though.”

The new League of Ireland Women’s Premier Division starts for Wexford Saturday 4 March away to Galway United whilst the U19’s begin their season away to local side CK United the day after.


By Harry Shorthose

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