Friday 14 December 2018

Career still on hold as Chin chases perfection on the field

Attacker content to focus on hurling but insists Wexford need consistency

Dublin footballer Ciaran Kilkenny (left) and Lee Chin at the launch of the Beko Club Bua award scheme. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Dublin footballer Ciaran Kilkenny (left) and Lee Chin at the launch of the Beko Club Bua award scheme. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Lee Chin pauses to think about when he last held down what could be considered permanent employment.

"When I was barbering three years ago," he recalled.

In the meantime, he has followed his heart by committing to hurling, more or less, on a full-time basis.

There's some casual work when his time allows it with the family business 'Chin Can Cook', a Chinese take-away in Wexford town. And there's a growing suite of brands keen to attach themselves to his image from nutrition and sports drink suppliers to sportswear manufacturers.

"I am on a retainer with them (brands). It's not something that I like talking about in terms of it making a living for me. It's what they do for my service, what they feel I'm worth. We just work together on a lot of things. I enjoy working with them," he explained.

It's been a growing trend, one which Chin himself touched upon himself in January, where inter-county GAA players continue to detach themselves from mainstream employment in order to focus almost completely on their sport, ostensibly an amateur sport.

A trawl through his own Wexford squad, for instance, won't throw up anyone working on a construction site, the majority with employment lines that fit neatly around their sport rather than the other way round.

"A lot are taking those career paths to go into that suit hurling," Chin said.

Lee Chin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Lee Chin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

"A lot are taking the teaching route and other routes but the jobs that they essentially end up with, they understand that it's not going to have too much of an effect on them physically or mentally.

"I think they just do it, take those jobs, to accommodate their hurling. I don't think there's any lad within our panel that works on a construction site that's a seven to four or five job, hard labour, and still performs at the end of the day.

"There's no one really that I'm involved with in Wexford does anything like that," explained Chin, at yesterday's launch of Leinster GAA's Beko-sponsored Club Bua awards, a scheme that works as a health check and code of best practice for the 800 clubs in the province.

He accepts the "possible" concerns that players who set aside careers in this fashion, at this stage of their lives, to devote so much to their sport but applies the simple logic of happiness to justify any such decision to postpone a more conventional working week.

"I don't really know if people are looking forward that 10 years to when they are in their 30s. Maybe everyone (players) in the GAA are thinking they'll cross that bridge when they come to it. For me anyway, I think (full-time work and inter-county hurling together) would be hard to do."

A recent report, 'Towards 2034', commissioned during the term of the previous GAA president Aogan O Fearghail in order to get an overview as to what challenges the Association might need to meet but which has yet to be published, suggested, among other things, the payment of an allowance to inter-county players and, naturally, it's something that Chin admits to being easily disposed to.

The reality, he acknowledges, will be different.

"The GAA was never built on the fact that players get paid and everyone that goes into the game understands that and knows that. In the future, if there were players to be compensated for their efforts, I don't think any player would object to it," said Chin.

Having time to devote to his sport will be of benefit, he hopes, when Wexford play Leinster Championship matches on four successive weekends between May and June.

However, he's also conscious of the physical demands such a schedule may bring, having recently experienced his first relatively major injury with a grade-one hamstring tear that impacted on his League contribution.

"I think it's going to be very demanding," he predicted. "We have (similar) experience in the past. Usually in the qualifier route you only play two games but there was a particular year (2014) when we played three games with two extra-time periods.

"We almost played four games before getting into the All-Ireland quarter-final against Limerick and you could just see we were just completely a different team by that fourth game."

Chin recovered from the injury in time for the Galway quarter-final, a high point, followed by the deflation of losing to Kilkenny eight days later before an expectant home crowd. The defeat, he admits, has led to a lot of soul-searching among the players.

"When I think back, and look through the group, I don't think there was a day when we really threw in the towel. Even against Tipperary, when they had a good lead on us, we didn't give up, we kept fighting to the end. And we almost pulled it off," he said.

"Against Kilkenny, it almost looked like we threw in the towel a little early, and the game just got away from us in the second half. Kilkenny came down with a different attitude on the day, and we just didn't match it.

"I suppose over the last 18 months or so, we identified how we can compete with Kilkenny, and beat Kilkenny, and I think we just imagined it happening again, as opposed to really focusing on the work-rate as well.

"You can see over the last two or three weekends, the work-rate Kilkenny are bringing to their game now is just the old Kilkenny, their trademark, and it's very hard to match that. It's not that we can't; we just didn't turn up that weekend with that attitude to match whatever they brought."

Chin feels the challenge of putting back-to-back performances together is still something they have to rise to as a team, referencing TJ Reid's performances in Wexford Park and Nowlan Park on successive weekends as the perfect example.

"That's something that we might struggle with a small bit and that's a lack of consistency, winning a game and then, the following day, probably not performing as good," he said.

"Beating Galway in the quarter-final and then just turning up the next day and not putting in a performance at all. I find over this year and last year we probably found it a little bit difficult to do back-to-back, big performances against big teams.

"You could even see it last year with beating Kilkenny in Wexford Park in the Leinster semi-final and getting beaten against Galway in the Leinster final. It's something we need to compose ourselves a bit better on, when we beat a big team, maybe coming back down to roots again and just focusing on the next day as opposed to being fixated on the last day."

Chin also confirmed that he is currently not playing club football with Faythe Harriers.

"I just don't feel that my heart is in it and I just don't think it's fair for the players or the management for someone like myself to be involved in that and probably not give 100pc," he revealed. "It's not that you're intentionally not giving 100pc but you're not really having that drive to want to win."

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