Fully committed Lee Chin giving his all for Wexford’s cause

Life as a full-time amateur GAA player has its challenges – especially when injury strikes

Wexford’s Lee Chin in attendance in Croke Park at the launch of the 2018 Beko Club Bua award scheme. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Lee Chin is talking about enjoying life as a full-time amateur GAA player when he suddenly hits on the perils of it. It’s alright living and breathing hurling all day – until the unbearable quietness of being injured.

At age 25 and clearly in his sporting prime, Chin last year set aside previously part-time positions at the family’s Asian restaurant in Wexford and as a barber to concentrate full-time on his hurling – while also relying on income from his three different sponsors.

All within the GAA’s amateur guidelines, as he’s not being paid to play. Only when suffering a grade one hamstring tear during Wexford’s league campaign did Chin realise that sometimes a role away from hurling is a healthy distraction.

“It was awful, yeah,” says Chin, who sustained the injury in the second round win over Cork, played through it for a while, then missed another three weeks. “I’d be a very active guy where I just want to go out and run, do my own thing, but I just felt I was cooped up with being at home.


“I was nearly letting my mind go into overdrive, just trying to stay tuned in. That’s where I felt I got a little bit frustrated. It’s definitely something I would have identified myself during that period. I felt I wasn’t probably as cheerful going into the dressing-room any more, I was a bit down. I think Davy [Fitzgerald] would have identified it with me as well and highlighted it to me.

“It was something we talked about, that maybe I need to get a bit of a hobby over the next couple of weeks, if you’re going to be out for the next two or three weeks, that’ll keep you focused and your mind occupied.”

Chin did get back for the league semi-final against Kilkenny, his influence in that game curtailed in other ways as Kilkenny ran out nine-point winners – before going on to claim the league outright. Now into Wexford’s championship countdown mode, Chin isn’t rushing off to find a full-time position and believes that will come when he’s ready for it.

Speaking in Croke Park at the launch of the Beko-sponsored Club Bua awards – which rewards clubs in Leinster for their displays of best practice – Chin’s three personal sponsors are Fulfil Nutrition, ipro sport drinks, and O’Neills sportswear; that, he says, is enough to keep him going.

Lee Chin and Wexford fans celebrate the championship win over Kilkenny last summer. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

“I’m still just focusing on the game myself, yeah. Of course I am on a retainer with them. It’s not something that I like talking about in terms of it’s going to make a living for me. It’s what they do for my service, is what they feel I’m worth. We work together on a lot of things, I enjoy working with them.

“These brands are not something I would have went out to get myself, they approached me about it. I’m just happy that they’ve chosen me to work with and I can’t really speak for anybody else.”

Chin, in other words, is not saying more GAA players could seek out this full-time route. He has his own career ambitions but is not about to force them either.

Long haul

“I haven’t really got a limit on it at the moment. I feel that when I get into something I’m going to be doing it for the long haul, instead of for a year or two. I’m really kind of waiting for that opportunity or something for myself to think of something in the line of business that I’ll just jump into or do myself in my own time.

“For me, anyway, I think it [a full-time job] would be hard to do. A lot of the lads would encourage me to open a barbers in Wexford, get all the young fellas in, cut their hair. It’s just something that I don’t think I’d be entirely happy doing.

“I see a lot of the lads in with the panel at the moment, a lot of them are not really affected by work that much. A lot of them have jobs that they’ve chosen, the careers that they have, it almost suits hurling as such. A lot of people are taking the teaching route and a lot of people are taking other routes. But I think 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.

“A lot of guys are just trying to be happy, trying to find a happy medium in career and sporting lives. If a guy is generally happy off the field, in terms of the work he is doing, he’ll generally be happy on the field and if he is performing on the field you can bet your life that he’s happy off the field.

“I don’t really know if people are looking forward that 10 years to when they are in their 30s. Maybe everyone in the GAA are thinking at the moment they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it.”

The suggestion of a player allowance, as outlined in the recent GAA report Towards 2034, is something Chin knows he won't get to rely on in his career.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea. This is not our job, it’s our hobby and we love it. 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. It can be a decent idea in the future to help guys out financially.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics