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'It was more to do with a friendship. I wanted him to be happy in his decision'

Lee Chin sheds some light on his close relationship with Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald.

Wexford's Lee Chin celebrates with manager Davy Fitzgerald after their Leinster final success.
Wexford's Lee Chin celebrates with manager Davy Fitzgerald after their Leinster final success.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Nov 13th 2019, 3:24 PM

IN THE VAST majority of top-level inter-county set-ups, post-game debriefs are commonplace in the days that follow a match.

Be it a Walsh Cup game in January or a championship tie in August, a county’s analysis and management teams will dissect the 70 minutes of action and usually present their findings to the squad, before discussing ways to improve as a group. 

It’s a process that many players find beneficial for working on their individual games, while it also allows the manager to reinforce the tactics he wants to employ. 

After a defeat, those debriefs can be especially useful in helping the squad understand where exactly the game was lost and identify key areas they will focus on in the next clash.

The issue is that when a side suffers a season-ending loss, the players are often left to stew over the defeat on their own for the winter. 

“All year when you play your games between Walsh Cup, National League, practice games and then championship, every game you dissect and you analyse,” says Wexford forward Lee Chin.

“And when you’re beaten in the last game of the year, that’s it – you’re done for the year.

“There’s no assessments, there’s no analysing and that was one hole that I found hard to fill, was the fact we didn’t sit down in a room together and just discuss what went wrong because I needed answers myself.

“I suppose it was a thing where you’d be contacting a couple of the lads and through conversations with Davy himself, you start filling that hole of going, ‘Yeah, maybe they are the reasons why.’

“It takes a while, it does take a while but time is a great healer and you back to your club and you get on with the lads there. You set another goal with your club and you move on, in time.”

lee-chin-dejected-after-the-game Lee Chin following the end of Wexford's season. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Wexford looked on the verge of a first All-Ireland final appearance in 23 years when they led by five points with a spare man in the second period, but Tipperary dug deep and stole a two-point victory.

That loss particularly stung the Leinster champions. Reflecting on it now, Chin identifies Wexford’s poor use of possession and their deviation from the system as factors in the defeat. 

The Wexford players were left in limbo for a few weeks as Davy Fitzgerald mulled over his future, but after committing to remain in charge for a further two years the plans are now in place for 2020.

“Obviously I want him to stay, I would have been planting little seeds every now and again,” he smiles. “But it was more to do with a friend and a friendship.

“I wanted him to be happy in his decision. For him to come back to Wexford, I didn’t want to force him, or convince him to come back to Wexford when I was thinking I don’t know if it’s what he really wants to do with his life.

“So I was just trying to support him with regards with whatever he wanted to do that I’d back him, and I’d 100% respect his decision, and I’d never fall out with him over it. That was more or less the conversations we had.”

The Model County jet to New York this week for the Aer Lingus-sponsored New York Hurling Classic Super 11s tournament at the weekend. They had their start of year meeting the week before last, where gym programmes were assigned to players and new coach Brendan Bugler was introduced to the group. 

“I played against him in 2014…where he actually got sent-off against Wexford in Wexford Park,” recalls Chin.

“We had a meeting last week and I drew a little dig at him that. I spent time with Brendan in New York, we actually won a championship out there with Galway New York together.

“I wouldn’t have got to get to know him very well there, I was only spending a day or two with him as I was only there for the weekend but he’s a great guy. I bumped into him once or twice over the years, met him last week as well he came down to meet the group. Just an unbelievable guy, looking forward to working with him.” 

brendan-bugler Clare All-Ireland winner Brendan Bugler. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Once they return from the States, the real training will begin in earnest for the coming season. 

But as 2019 slips into the rearview mirror, it’s worth reflecting on a seminal campaign in Chin’s career.

Beating Kilkenny in a Leinster final, reaching the All-Ireland semi-final and winning his first All-Star are all significant milestones for Chin, who at 27 is only entering his prime years as an athlete.

His stand-out memory from the year?

“I suppose the one moment that stands out in my mind would be the Leinster final,” he says. “The final moments in the game on that particular day was a big highlight for us, for many years anyway, so that for me was the standout of the year.

“It was unbelievable,” he says of winning the All-Star. “For my family and my club, it’s incredible. They were so proud. Obviously I was happy to receive an All-Star. It’s something as a kid you look up to your heroes that are receiving these All-Stars.

“Just to be up there with the rest of the rest of the gang that were there on the night, it was just an honour to be there side-by-side with such great hurlers in the country as well.”

Chin also sheds some light on his bond with Fitzgerald, which he admits is closer than most player-manager relationship. When Chin was struggling with his game in the summer of 2018, Fitzgerald invited him to spend a few days in Clare to take his mind off hurling. 

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The pair also have plans to go into business together in the near future.

“For a player you’re always going to wait until the manager makes that type of move because I suppose as a character I’d always try to have a bit of craic and stuff within the panel.

aer-lingus-super-11s-jersey-launch Chin was speaking at the launch of the Aer Lingus New York Hurling Classic Super 11s. Source: Seb Daly/SPORTSFILE

“I found I did always try have a bit of craic with Davy and to be fair to him he’s deadly at it himself. I think it’s just through things like that and it was Davy that created that relationship just through how passionate he is about his players and the guys that he’s with every day.

“It’s just the kind of man that he is, that’s the relationship he wants with players. If a player has an opportunity to get to know a man like that on a more friendship level I’d do it anyway because I like having that relationship with him. A lot of the lads in the panel do too. 

“He loves throwing in the one-liners that just shows he’s down to earth and that’s he’s good fun, good craic. 

“He’d be unbelievably passionate at the top of the room talking about what we’re going to do for the year, his plans and whatever, but then he’ll throw in a one-liner that’s just funny and make people laugh.

“It makes you a bit more relaxed in the room with him but he’s very good at controlling the room that way in regards if he wants the mood to be aggressive and intense it’s going to be that way. And if he wants it to be a bit more relaxed he’s well capable of that too.”

And following the success of 2019, Chin is determined to go one step further next year.

“When you’re winning your provincial title you should be contending I suppose for setting your sights on maybe winning the big one. It’s still not an easy task as you can see.

“We won Leinster this year, Limerick won Munster and neither of us were in the All-Ireland final. That’s how competitive hurling has gone but look, every year most teams will set out their stalls of doing well in the league, possibly trying to win the league and then trying to win the provincials and the All-Ireland.

“It’s very hard to do all three. We only nailed one of them this year.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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