Hun­gry Chin not yet used to Wex­ford wave of ex­cite­ment

Irish Examiner - Sport - - GAA - Bren­dan O’brien

A wide smile colonises Lee Chin’s face at the men­tion of 2004.

He was only 11 at the time. Just an­other im­pres­sion­able kid from Wex­ford up in the big smoke for the pro­vin­cial fi­nal against Of­faly. Pock­ets of the day still stand out in stark re­lief against the en­su­ing pas­sage of time.

“I was up at the back of the Davin Stand, right in the cor­ner of the top tier, with a big bunch of my own fam­ily. All the bot­tom was cov­ered but there was hardly any­body up that far. Damien Fitzhenry gave an exhibition in the goal that day too. They are all great mem­o­ries.”

It’s well past the time they sculpted more and well they know it.

Seven years had al­ready passed from their last Le­in­ster ti­tle by the time John O’connor raised the Bob O’ke­effe Cup in ‘04 and the prospect of a 13-year gap be­ing bridged this Sun­day is sure to un­leash a tor­rent of traf­fic up the M11.

Chin has seen the ebb and flow of sup­port and ex­pec­ta­tion in his six years on the panel. The wave of near hysteria that threat­ened to en­velop the county when, un­der Liam Dunne, they de­throned All-ire­land cham­pi­ons Clare as well as the all-too-fa­mil­iar stag­nant cam­paigns ei­ther side of it.

“We have had small mar­gins of suc­cess over the last few years, hints of a break­through, and peo­ple go­ing bal­lis­tic. I wouldn’t say we are used to the feel­ing at the mo­ment but you could un­der­stand why the peo­ple of Wex­ford are the way they are and the ex­cite­ment they are bring­ing to the ta­ble.”

No­body ex­pected this gid­di­ness. Not yet.

It’s only a mat­ter of months since Davy Fitzger­ald’s side re­turned from Pearse Sta­dium with a nar­row but vi­tal two league points but the mo­men­tum built up by their charis­matic boss has been mir­rored and even ex­ceeded by an op­po­nent that has claimed a league ti­tle and per­fo­rated both Dublin and Of­faly.

Chin can see that. He doesn’t ob­ject to the un­der­dogs tag which did Wex­ford no harm back in March when they sacked Nowlan Park, or again ear­lier this month when they an­swered doubts as to their abil­ity to back that dis­play up with an­other state­ment de­feat of Kilkenny.

“A team like Gal­way has pretty much ev­ery­thing,” Chin ex­plained. “They have all the hurlers that can turn up on any day and be as good as any hurler in Ire­land. They have pace, they have power, they are a big, phys­i­cal team, a very big team. They can run the ball, they can play the ball short, they can play it long. They have guys up front who can win their own ball, 50-50 ball. That’s the way I as­sess Gal­way at the mo­ment. They are a team that are re­ally in form at the mo­ment and are rightly seen as favourites to win the All-ire­land.”

It makes for a fi­nal of real note and in­ter­est.

There is a re­al­i­sa­tion that both Gal­way and Wex­ford are at the van­guard of a cham­pi­onship that is en­er­gis­ing the en­tire hurl­ing com­mu­nity and beyond.

New faces, new contenders, new hope that we may be again on the verge of a demo­cratic revo­lu­tion in hurl­ing to echo the 90s.

It’s a pos­si­bil­ity that has been tan­ta­lis­ing the game ever since Clare and Cork emerged from the pack to con­test the 2013 All-ire­land de­cider but few coun­ties can match Wex­ford for sheer hurl­ing ro­mance and Chin ad­mits to be­ing some­what taken aback by the lead role they are play­ing in the un­fold­ing drama.

“In some ways we prob­a­bly are but, when Davy first came in, one of his first en­gage­ments, he set out a lot of stalls for us and we as­sessed our­selves more than any­thing as play­ers. And we al­ways thought that we could reach a Le­in­ster fi­nal and be com­pet­ing there in some way.

“To get pro­moted in the Na­tional League was a big thing for us and beat­ing Kilkenny in the quar­ter-fi­nal, that was great for us and that

just kept build­ing con­fi­dence and build­ing con­fi­dence. And through those kind of vic­to­ries it makes you be­lieve even more where you can go.

“At the mo­ment, we are in a Le­in­ster fi­nal. It is some­thing we wanted to do and we are here now.”

Hold on to your hats.

Pic­ture: Sam Barnes

Wex­ford’s Lee Chin at the launch of Cen­tra’s #Weare­hurl­ing, which cel­e­brates the pas­sion dis­played by all of those in Ire­land’s col­lec­tive hurl­ing com­mu­nity. Chin says con­fi­dence is build­ing in Wex­ford: ‘We al­ways thought we could reach a Le­in­ster fi­nal and be com­pet­ing there in some way.’

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