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Chins Eyes On Leinster Prize

April 18th, 2024

By Kevin Egan

The 2023 Leinster senior hurling championship won’t be remembered particularly fondly in Wexford after the Model County missed out on the knockout stages of the championship entirely, but the rollercoaster ride that the players and supporters went on over the course of seven days last May still stands out as one of the talking points of the whole season.

It started with a remarkable collapse against Westmeath, where Wexford went from 16 points up at half-time to losing by 4-18 to 2-22 on their home field of Chadwicks Wexford Park, a result that opened up the possibility of relegation to the Joe McDonagh Cup.

That catastrophe was averted when the same Wexford side hosted Kilkenny seven days later and ended their season on a real high, a thrilling 4-23 to 5-18 win against their old rivals.

It’s that unique Wexford ability to switch things on all of a sudden, particularly when hurling against the Cats, that gives Lee Chin real hope of provincial success over the next six weeks.

“You’re here because you want to win. Are we capable of doing that? I believe so” was how he described his team’s chances.

“Look, it takes a lot of consistency, a lot of work and a bit of luck along the way too. Hopefully we can get off to a good start against Dublin, then you might gather a bit of momentum and confidence along the way and hopefully be there at the end of it.”

For a host of reasons, 2023 feels like ancient history for this Wexford group, more than most counties. New management, lots of new players and even a different style of hurling have all added to the sense that it’s a clean slate and a new start for the county.

“Look, I think we are in a position at the moment where everything is new. The management is new. There are a lot of new players in around. There are lads who have left the dressing room, obviously finished and retired.

“I think we are in a good spot at the moment in terms of what we have shown that we are doing so far. We won a Walsh Cup. We had relatively consistent performances throughout our National League and our training is going really well” Chin said.

““There are lads returning from injury. There are young lads after being introduced to the panel that got a lot of game time throughout the National League. There were lads that were away, the likes of Liam Óg McGovern and Matthew O’Hanlon that came back into the panel after being abroad travelling, and those things just lift everything as they go on.

“Look, the camp is in a good mood at the moment. We are in a place now where we are just really getting ready for the Championship. Things are looking quite positive at the moment.”

While the Faythe Harriers man offers nothing but praise for any outgoing member of the management and coaching staff, it’s clear that the elevation of a passionate Wexford man in Keith Rossiter to the flagship job within the county sits well with Chin, who has the same devotion to Wexford’s history and prosperity.

“There is a difference (in having a Wexford man at the helm), and that’s no disrespect to any managers that have been there in the past and not being from Wexford. Keith is a Wexford man and represented Wexford proudly for a long time himself, I had the pleasure of playing with him for two years before he retired. He’s a great guy and we’re really enjoying our time with him at the moment but when I suppose they are wanting to talk about Wexford history or those type of subjects, it’s coming from a place of experience and a man that’s been there.

“Being a fellow Wexford man, I suppose it might hit a bit deeper at times. All of that kind of stuff can be subtly different and I suppose that he knows the lay of the land in Wexford, knows the players, knows the clubs, all those things are somewhat of a bonus”.

That Westmeath defeat wasn’t the only aspect that made the 2023 campaign a difficult one for Chin, and for Wexford however. Last year’s championship got underway just two weeks after Chin was subjected to racial abuse in a challenge game, something which left the Wexford player in a bind.

“I didn’t comment on it at the time because I didn’t feel like I wanted to.

“It’s not that I tend to stay away from it because it creates too much fuss, it’s not that at all but at the time it just wasn’t right. I received an apology from the man himself and we’ve exchanged phone calls since to talk about it.

“There was a part of me at the time that felt sorry for him as well, he has a family of his own and what happened was unfortunate but sometimes things are said in the heat of the moment and they’re not intentionally meant with any great malice.

“I had sympathy for him and his family at the time and still do but I think he’s very sorry for what happened on the day and we did have conversations since and things are smooth and I hope he’s doing well”.

On the wider topic, Chin’s ongoing experiences make it clear that there still is a long way to travel before the issue, and incidents like this, will be consigned to history.

“Where are we? Look, all I can say in my own experiences is not a whole lot has changed from when I was younger to now, it still tends to happen” he admitted.

“I will be honest, it has never happened to me, and not that it should, but I’d like to state that it has never happened to me during a senior inter-county game at all or any form of inter-county status level, it’s never happened. Obviously, we know back a number of years ago that it happened to me in a club game back home and at various different times. But if you’re asking the question, are we in a different place? For what I experience at times, no.

“Those things are disappointing to hear but it’s not something that I can control. Obviously, speaking about it does help and there’s probably a lot of other people out there that experience it a lot more than I do and then there’s probably people out there that don’t experience it at all.

“When I was younger, I would have been in that frame of mind at times where I was seeking support myself but as I’ve gotten older in my life, I’ve dealt with it a lot better. My reactions to it are a lot better, how I suffer from it are much better.

“But some people just mightn’t be at that stage of their life yet and they mightn’t be able to deal with it like I can at the moment, I’d be there as an element of support, if anyone ever needed it of course”.

On and off the field, Lee Chin is not one for looking back, and seems as focused as ever on bringing about positive change for Wexford, and for the wider GAA and Irish communities too.

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