Dr Nathan Wall reflects on his time with St Vincent’s Hospital FC in the first of our Centurions series on players who have made more than 100 appearances with the club
2021 will mark the 20th year since St Vincent’s Hospital FC first established itself as a junior club in FAI competition. The true, humble beginnings of the club date back to the 1990s in the famed UCD Superleague.
However, official club records start in 2001. Since then, a concise registry of every player to pull on the St Vincent’s jersey has been meticulously kept throughout years of the United Churches Leagues, Leinster Senior Leagues and FAI junior cups. Through thick and thin, a remarkable 290 players have pulled on the green and black colours of St Vincent’s in official club games. The St Vincent’s alumni includes players with League of Ireland experience, Irish underage internationals and, if the rumours are true, one previous Real Madrid youth player!
To mark this milestone the Medical Independent proudly presents: St Vincent’s Centurions, a feature series on those club veterans who have achieved over 100 official club appearances. These illustrious alumni include 15 loyal servants who have represented the club with distinction over the past 20 years. Here, we take the opportunity to get an insight into what it means to represent the club and how playing competitive sport has benefitted these players in both life and medicine. The first in the series is GP, Dr Nathan Wall.
Medical Independent: Nathan, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. Tell us about how you were introduced to St Vincent’s FC?
Nathan Wall: I heard of the club through my brother who had gone through medicine a few years before me – he claims to have played for Vincent’s although there’s no record of it. Aidan McGrath, John Frizelle and myself were the young ones in my first season; although my lack of pace turned me into one of the ‘oldies’ the year after.
MI: Talk us through your football background before you came into medicine.
NW: I learned my trade making last ditch tackles and hoofing the ball clear with Regional United in Limerick. I later moved to arch-rivals Mungret Regional. The Figo-esque move prepared me well for life in hospitals’ football, hopping from one team to the next!
MI: Only once in 20 years has St Vincent’s fielded the same team two games in a row, so there has always been a huge turnover of players. Who were the memorable names from your first seasons at the club?
NW: I remember Garrett (‘G’) Leonard was playing centre-half as he was immense; great to slot in beside starting off in senior football. Otherwise Aidan McGrath, Andy Delany, Ronan Cassidy, all of the Cosgroves and Dean Huggard plus lots of other fantastic players. It was a very strong Vincent’s team, which unfortunately faded over the mid-2010s before coming back to life in recent years.
MI: You have worked closely with some of the most talented footballers in Ireland in recent years through the Irish under-16 team and Shamrock Rovers. What advice would you give to a medical student or NCHD who wanted to follow a similar path?
NW: It’s an interesting area and it’s challenging to practise medicine in a non-mainstream environment like sport. Ireland is a small pool so it’s easy to get familiar with others who are interested in sport and exercise medicine. Go to any of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (FSEM) talks, conferences and just get chatting to doctors working in that environment.
MI: What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your involvement with the underage international teams?
NW: Life as an aspiring professional footballer in this day and age takes serious commitment – 24/7 commitment – to reach your full potential. It’s tougher work than the dreamy idea I had of it!
MI: How has playing regular competitive sports benefitted you in your day to day life?
NW: It has benefited me hugely. It has given me great memories, opportunities, and has helped me to stay physically active. But mostly in terms of social opportunities; even without needing to be fantastic at sports, it gives you great opportunities to get to know people.
MI: How have you balanced a busy medical career whilst representing St Vincent’s through the years?
NW: I think medicine has the potential to be a never-ending treadmill of work and study. It’s important to set aside time for personal hobbies and exercise is a fantastic hobby with many benefits. For me though, sport was always an important part of my life growing up and so there was never a time where I couldn’t put aside a few hours a week to keep that up (although not having kids, that’s probably easy for me to say!).
MI: In 101 appearances, there have clearly been some great performances. But is there a game that stands out to you as being particularly memorable?
NW: True to a centre-half philosophy, there was a 0-0 draw we played out with the league toppers circa 2015 in Bushy Park. We played most of the game with nine men as two of the lads were held up in work. Real backs-to-the-wall stuff. Better than any victory!
MI: Tell us what has changed within the club since you first started out.
NW: Well, we were table-toppers, then we were minions fighting against relegation and now the club is getting back to old standards, which is a credit to the lads involved in organising it.
MI: Following on from that, what things have stayed the same?
NW: Throughout all the years (even when losing) it has always been a joy to play with a great group with Vincent’s. There was never a negative atmosphere in the changing room (or side of the pitch as changing rooms are few and far between!).
MI: Who has been the most influential person for you at the club?
NW: John Seery – hands-down. He is to thank for keeping the club going through tough times. There’s lots of doctors who would have lost out on football and friendships through college and beyond, were it not for him keeping the club going through many years.
MI: Nathan, thank you very much for your time and insight. We have saved the most controversial part for last. Please name your all-time St Vincent’s five-aside team. Choose wisely!
NW: Andy Delany, Peter Kelly – both as the engines. Aidan McGrath, John Cosgrove – for the goals. And sure I’d throw myself in there as well cos it’d be rude not to and I’m sure the other would carry me along.
MI: It’s always a pleasure to catch up with one of St Vincent’s most committed players and we wish Dr Wall every success on and off the field in the future.
As we await a return to competitive football, we would like to thank our sponsors, Medisec Ireland with whom we look forward to sharing a bright future. We would also like to thank the Medical Independent for continuing to provide excellent coverage of St Vincent’s FC. Keep an eye on the sports section of the Medical Independent for our next episode of St Vincent’s Centurions, and more medical football news.
Keep an eye out in The Medical Independent and the club’s Facebook page for news, fixtures, results and upcoming events. facebook.com/SVHFC
Dr Nathan Wall General Practitioner 101 St Vincent’s appearances (2008-2019)
Nathan is a previous St Vincent’s FC club captain. Having taken over the reins from Michael Anthony in 2010, Nathan had a two-year stint as club manager and six years as club secretary. An uncompromising centre-half, the aptly named Dr Wall is known to be strong in the tackle and dominant in the air.
Nathan is a UCD graduate and was introduced to the club as a medical student, representing St Vincent’s with pride throughout his GP training. He was a key member of the side that won the Leinster Senior League Saturday Major title in 2018 and formed a formidable central defensive partnerhip with fellow GP, Dr Tommy Fitzgerald.
At an international level, Nathan was one of the founding members of the Irish Medical Football team that has been competing annually at the Medical World Cup and has been an ever present member of that squad.
Nathan is currently working as a general practitioner in Blessington and has worked with the FAI as team doctor for the Ireland under 16 men’s international team, overseeing some of the most talented young athletes in the country. He is also the team doctor for Shamrock Rovers’ academy teams and works with the senior team in the League of Ireland.