The Downs manager Lar Wall.
The Downs manager Lar Wall.

Lar Wall is enjoying The Downs adventure

By Cian O’Connell

In sport timing really matters. Lar Wall’s managerial adventure is continuing with The Downs, who contest a Westmeath SFC final against St Loman’s at TEG Cusack Park on Sunday.

Before that Wall had a thoroughly enjoyable stint with Gaeil Colmcille in Meath, nearly claiming county glory a couple of years ago.

As a player with Arles-Kilcruise in Laois, Wall learned valuable lessons watching how different coaches operated. “Even playing, I would have always had an interest and a flair for it,” Wall says.

“My Dad was quite prominent in Laois in the coaching circuit - in our own club, in particular. It was very much part and parcel of my own GAA journey. I was a player, but also on the other side involved in the preparation of teams from a young age.

“Like everything you evolve and you learn as you go. You learn as much off as many people as you can. I brought that with me up in Meath and I'm in Westmeath now.

“I'm still involved in football at underage - girls and boys. I like coaching, that is what I like doing. Obviously you are looking for challenges everywhere you go. It is no different than when you are a player.”

The Downs, who have reached a first Westmeath final since 2005, and Wall simply appear to be a good fit. “A lot of it is timing, with The Downs there was a lot of good work done in the club both at underage and adult level in the last few years,” Wall responds.

“They have been knocking on the door and they have been at the top table. Sometimes a fresh voice can help, to bring a slightly different message.

“It can help players, I suppose, and it can work both ways. Continuity is also good, but it seems to have picked up from where the lads were last year. I have added my own little style along with Barry and Dermot. We have added something different which can help.”

Early in the campaign The Downs enjoyed a league winning campaign which offered hope ahead of the championship according to Wall.

Lar Wall in action for Arles-Kilcruise in the 2003 AIB Leinster Club SFC.
Lar Wall in action for Arles-Kilcruise in the 2003 AIB Leinster Club SFC.

“We had a good run in the league, we won the league after extra-time,” he says. “Subsequently we won all of our championship games, so we have had a good run. The league gave us a nice little boost, I would say.

“Then we had our county players coming back, they have added to it. We have had a good run, but Sunday will be different, no doubt.”

Wall knows about the relevance of sheer hard graft, recalling how Arles-Kilcruise flared to prominence in Laois. “We had a great time, we came from a low base at the time,” Wall recalls. “We worked our way up. What we achieved in the early noughties was excellent considering the size of the club. That was a great time. We were unlucky not to win a few more championships really.”

A willingness to develop players and construct a team interests Wall, who also had a stint in charge of the Meath ladies football team. It was a rewarding experience, while seven productive years were spent with Gaeil Colmcille. “The timing when I arrived it just worked,” he says.

“There was a bit of chemistry. There was no real high expectations from either side. It was just a journey. During that we got a bit of momentum and we got to the top table. That was the initial target, just to be competing with the household teams in Meath.

“It was a great journey. I'd place huge value on that, you have to immerse yourself as much as it was your own club - to try to get involved as much as you can in other parts of it.”

Wall relishes the opportunity to try to improve footballers. “Essentially it is about relationships with players,” Wall adds. “I did develop a relationship with them - it wasn't always positive, but that is the way it goes.

“I think there was a good, healthy mutual respect. The club were very good to me during that time. It doesn't always happen. I think there is give and take. When you're successful it is great, but when you aren't successful or lose semi-finals and finals, you learn the true measure of people and a club.

“I had a great time there, it was very unfortunate that we didn't get over the line in 2020 and a few other years. That is sport. It didn't change my feeling about the seven years with them.”

Wall is now making an impact with The Downs.