Lee Chin has spoken about how the team had to fill the void against Laois
Lee Chin has explained that the Wexford players realised they had to fill the void left by Davy Fitzgerald on Sunday.
The Sixmilebridge man is currently suspended from all functions as a GAA manager for his on-field infraction against Tipperary in the Allianz League semi-final, and missed the Leinster quarter-final. It may only be against Kilkenny on June 10th that Chin truly misses having the boss “going a bit crazy” on the sideline.
Laois gritted their teeth for 35 minutes against Wexford at O’Moore Park, until the more conditioned and seasoned side strode away comfortably: 3-25 to 1-17. Chin unloaded 70 minutes’ worth of power, speed and guile on the opposition, before wandering from one autograph hunter to the next with a big black marker. No flag or hurley bás was turned down.
Though there was an (unproven) rumour of Davy Fitzgerald being on the team bus earlier in the day, and selector JJ Doyle confirmed that the banned Clare man was in contact with the sideline, it was down to the players to perform.
The bottom line was that the safety blanket of their manager was gone. As throw-in approached, it dawned on Chin and his teammates that there was a void to fill.
“For us it was a little bit quieter!” Chin explains of the dressing-room. “It seemed a little bit quieter for a certain amount of time until we got a little bit comfortable in our own company I suppose.
"I think the players then drove it themselves, we started getting a bit more vocal and getting a bit louder in the dressing-room and making up for him not being there.
“It didn’t really make a difference when we came onto the field; obviously you’d miss his voice on the line there, him driving you on and going a bit crazy.
“But other than that we were just totally focused coming into the game. We knew what was ahead of us over the last number of weeks that Davy wasn’t going to be around and it didn’t really seem to bother us too much. We got the job done.”
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald was in the stands for Sunday's game. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tommy Grealy
Right up until the first whistle, the hubbub was about how much Wexford would win by and where the manager was going to sit.
The trap was set for an upset win for a Laois team that had played three championship games since the Model County last took to the field against Tipperary in the league semi-final.
“Well look, there’s always a small bit of apprehension coming into a championship game; you don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Chin.
“The difference in championship and league; guys tend to make that extra run and fight that little bit harder for that breaking ball and they’ll make up that five yards to make a tackle and get back on a man.
“That’s the difference in championship and we knew Laois were going to bring that in abundance, and we knew we had to top that if we wanted to get a victory.
“We knew we would have to get more turnovers and more tackles in and more shots. I think at half-time we were actually down on the tackles, but we were still ahead by five or six points.
“We came out in the second half and knocked over three points and that kind of knocked the wind out of them a small bit, but other than that they battled right into the second half for about 15 minutes.
“Then I suppose we just knocked in two more goals and kind of killed them off.”
Chin is one of these stars who can play his game and still be fully aware of what has gone on around him, hence summing up the match so neatly.
The devilish details also include so many players (ten) getting on the scoreboard as the team created as amazing 51 chances, converting 3-25.
Jack O’Connor, nephew of 1996 All-Ireland winner George, scored 0-2 and set up three more before hobbling off with an ankle injury on 37 minutes.
So often an impact substitute in recent seasons, Harry Kehoe delivered 1-2 from a starting berth, Aidan Nolan hit 1-1 from midfield, while Jack Guiney came on to slot a goal.
Jack Guiney. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
That’s before mentioning the impacts of Conor McDonald, Paul Morris and sweeper Shaun Murphy, or the returns from injury of cruciate trio Liam Óg McGovern, Shane Tomkins and Andrew Shore.
“Yeah I suppose our midfielders are always pushing forward, I find myself covering for them an awful lot because I play centre-forward mostly,” smiles Chin.
“Everyone is getting opportunities in the forward line and midfield, and even guys in the half-back line are getting opportunities.
“It’s just about converting them, I think we could have converted more in the first half there, we could have went in at half-time a bit more comfortable but we were happy enough with the performance overall at the end of the day.
“I don’t know what the scoreline was but all that matters is the win.
“Yeah Jack has been hungry,” Chin adds of Guiney who played his first championship game since 2015. “He’s been out for a long time now and it’s a been a long time since he played championship hurling.
“We knew when Jack got his opportunity he was going to give it everything he had. He got a goal disallowed there, I didn’t really see anything wrong with it and for his confidence he bagged one then again.
“Delighted for him to be back, delighted he was back scoring as well and it was good to see him getting a game.”
While Sunday’s run-out was about blowing out some dirty petrol, a June 10th meeting with Kilkenny in the Leinster semi-final requires an economical burning of fuel and an emptying of the tank.
Dublin and Galway have often been tipped in recent seasons to dethrone Kilkenny and yet Brian Cody is chasing a provincial four-in-a-row.
Wexford last shocked the Cats' system to win the title in 2004 and have not even been to a final since the Tribe were admitted to the competition in 2009.
“They are still the lads that have been ruling hurling over the last few years. We beat them in the league (quarter-final at Nowlan Park) but that means nothing now in championship hurling.”