Thursday 19 September 2019

Veteran Lee relishing her shot at glory

Limerick’s Grace Lee is training to be a solicitor. Photo: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Limerick’s Grace Lee is training to be a solicitor. Photo: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Daragh ó Conchúir

Grace Lee will not be able to launch herself headlong into the inevitable bacchanalia that will follow should she climb the steps of the Hogan Stand to be presented with the Kay Mills Cup today.

Lee is captain of the Limerick squad that face neighbours Kerry in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Premier Junior Camogie Championship final, but another lifetime event takes place this week that requires the 25-year-old to be compos mentis.

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No matter what unfolds, Lee begins a six-month stint at the Law Society in Blackhall Place as she continues the rigorous process towards becoming a solicitor.

It is a process that began in UCC six years ago and since then she has acquired her law degree. A year of eight exams for the Law Society followed and then a traineeship with Holmes O'Malley Sexton in their Cork office.

After her stint at Blackhall, she will return to HOMS's Limerick office for a further year, do another six weeks in Blackhall and then, all having run smoothly, be admitted to the Roll of Solicitors by the end of 2021.

It must seem a different world for many of her younger team-mates, many of whom are Leaving Cert students who have to go to school tomorrow.

Camogie has been a welcome diversion, all the more so for the fact that she had to put it to one side for a number of years to focus on her studies after being part of the All-Ireland-winning Junior A outfit of 2014.

Much has changed in the intervening years and she reckons she is the oldest in a squad that has been boosted by the introduction of a number of minors who played in the All-Ireland 'B' final earlier this year.

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With the Under 16s also in a national decider at B level, the seniors reaching the knockout stages for the first time and the juniors a step away from the second tier, it's looking good for Limerick right now.

"It has been a great year for Limerick camogie and the hurlers as well winning the All-Ireland last year," says Lee. "Our underage have been fantastic, really successful this year. I know a couple of them lost at the final hurdle but even getting there was brilliant. And the seniors.

"Even for us, just to get to Croke Park was a fantastic achievement. If we can go the whole way and get our second team up to intermediate that would be great. That is where we want to be.

"We have been really lucky with the minors this year. Our manager Kevin (Connolly) was their manager too. He is really familiar with the girls. They are a great bunch. They have come in, taken it in their stride, fitted in perfectly.

"Shauna D'Arcy got that goal in the semi-final that was all over social media, it was incredible. There are a few more of the girls who are on the starting 15. It is like as if they have been playing with us for the last four or five years. They are really mature for their age. We would be lost without them. They are really chilled. They don't really do nerves."

Further down the line, the Newcastle West attacker is keen to make up for lost time and progress to the senior ranks.

"I would love it. All the girls on the panel would love to get the call-up full-time. None of us are happy to tip away. We want to be on the top team."

That competitive streak will be vital today because Kerry are favourites, having had the experience of being in last year's decider and playing in Division 2 of the National League - Limerick reached the Division 3 final.

"Kerry are a fantastic bunch," she says. "They are a club team, Clanmaurice, best friends. It is very hard to go up against that. We have only come together since July for Championship because the minors have come in.

"But we are going to go out believing in ourselves. Kerry being here last year, it will stand to them. We are hoping in the first 10 minutes we will be able to adjust quickly. The speed of camogie and hurling nowadays, 10 minutes and you could leave the game behind you. We are just going to do our best to keep it simple."

Lee is determined to enjoy the build-up. "We were on such a high after winning the semi-final in Cusack Park. Every day now, the final is getting closer and closer, the excitement is building. We are trying to channel it and focus on the game. But it is hard not to get excited. The promotion is great, it's all around us even for junior camogie, it is being well promoted and is going to be on television for the first time.

"We have to make the best of it, try to relax and perform to our best. The rest will look after itself after that."

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