Lee Chin emphasises family’s role in him becoming an All Star
Wexford forward’s family have been both a pillar of support and welcome distraction to hurling
Lee Chin in action for Wexford. Chin says he is still tormented that they didn’t seal the deal against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
They reward hurling’s elite, the artists of the stick and ball game, but if the All Stars were actually handed to the most improved players, Lee Chin’s dad may have got one instead.
All summer long, as Chin the younger helped propel Wexford to a breakthrough Leinster title, and an All-Ireland semi-final place, he noticed something strange occurring with his dad at home.
“It was funny, during the year, for some strange reason, I don’t know what it was, he was out in the garden – he’d always be in the garden swinging a golf club or whatever it was anyway – but during last summer he just always had a hurl,” said Chin. “It was my little sister’s hurl, she’s only 11, so it’s a small hurl. Every time I went into the garden he was saying, ‘I’m getting better, I’m getting better!’”
Chin’s dad, Voon For Chin, emigrated from Malaysia to Ireland in the early 1990s with very little English and worked as a chef in his aunt’s Chinese restaurant in Wexford. There, he met Joanne Black, and in October of 1992, Lee Chin was born.
He reckons he didn’t start hurling until he was “nine or 10” but here he is now, an All Star, one of the elite. From a standing start he has galloped clear of the field and, along with Diarmuid O’Keeffe, they became the first Wexford hurlers since Damien Fitzhenry in 2004 to win an All Star.
Chin’s parents have no hurling background to speak of but they get what it all means, particularly at times like this.
“My mother was dropping me to a bar to meet a couple of the club lads after the announcement that I had received an All Star and she was getting emotional in the car,” said Chin. “People would know me for who I am now but for her, something like this reminds her of when I was a kid, climbing up door frames and stuff. It brought her back to those memories of when I was a kid and it’s funny that things like this can do that, you know.
“She was mentioning it to me in the car that night, she just kept saying, ‘I’m so proud of you’ and I just wanted her to recognise how proud she should be of herself because there’s all those things that they do, as parents.
“That’s what I’m talking about, it means so much for them and I was so happy for them because it’s just not possible without the parents, and the club, and it’s what I tried to get her to understand because she wasn’t seeing that side of it.
“I run out on to the field and I play and this year I had performances that led to me getting an All Star. But it was what she was doing in the background for me to achieve that stuff and it wouldn’t have been possible without her. Sometimes they don’t see that stuff. I think this is why we had that moment.”
Growing up, boxing was off limits to Chin despite the best efforts of Billy Walsh, whom his mother grew up with in Wexford, though soccer, Gaelic football and hurling were all encouraged. Remarkably, Chin has represented the county’s senior teams in all three codes, if you count League of Ireland soccer activity with Wexford Youths.
Hurling was always his deepest passion, however, and O’Keeffe, was a constant companion throughout the journey up through the ranks.
“We were both born in 1992 and all our underage years playing for Wexford we hurled together,” said Chin.
That journey isn’t complete, not for Chin, O’Keeffe, Wexford nor Davy Fitzgerald. The Leinster champions head stateside this week for Saturday’s Aer Lingus-sponsored New York Hurling Classic which takes place at Citi Field though the bigger picture is the All-Ireland the county craves.
“It would be foolish of me to say, this is our goal at the end of the year or that is our aspiration,” said Chin. “Obviously we have those but the reason for the little bit of success we had this year was having short-term goals and we just put everything into achieving those short-term goals.”
There were negatives from 2019 too. Chin is still tormented that they didn’t seal the deal against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Five points up. A man up. A two-point defeat.
“Some of the hurling we did in the first 50, 55 minutes was some of the best we’d done all year,” said Chin. “You’re watching it back, it’s great to watch. Then it starts to turn and you’re thinking, ‘Oh no’. The last 15 minutes are very hard to watch.”
When it all gets too much, it helps to revert to a family that isn’t steeped in hurling.
“Sometimes the family is almost a break away from hurling,” said Chin. “My life does consist of hurling between club and county. Then you go back to your family and you just have different things to talk about, and different things going on in their lives, it’s a bit of a break.”