Lee happy to walk tight-rope between triumph and disaster
By John Harrington
At a recent press conference, Cork Camogie captain, Amy Lee, was primed and ready for the most obvious question of the day.
How has she found working with Davy Fitzgerald since the former Waterford, Clare, and Wexford hurling team manager joined Cork camogie manager Matthew Twomey’s backroom team.
“I knew that was going to be a question,” said Lee with a smile when she spoke to the national media at the launch of John West Feile 2022.
“He's actually a lovely man. He's done massive stuff for us already. He just has a winning mentality and it's great to see. He genuinely wants to win at everything he does. In terms of him himself, he's so lovely. We still have great craic at training even though obviously the training is serious.
“You'd still have the craic or a little laugh or joke or whatever. Do you know what, it's great to have him involved.
“I'd have people asking me all the time what he's like and they're like, oh, he seems mad or whatever because of what they'd seen on TV. But if you actually sat down with the man for five minutes you'd know what he's really like.
“I think the way it is with TV and social media, even personal stuff, the way they put him out there. I know sometimes you lose the head and stuff, but I think it (the commentary) is very dramatic, like. He's actually a lovely man and he's great to work with.”
You can be sure that two-time All-Ireland winning Clare goalkeeper, Fitzgerald, will have some good specific advice for his fellow custodian Lee, but she’s already benefited from plenty of that.
She describes Cork’s goalkeeping coach, Teddy O’Donovan, as “the best goalie coach in the country by far,” and she also benefited significantly from being understudy to legendary Cork camogie goalkeeper, Aoife Murray, for five seasons.
By the time she was ready to replace Murray in the Cork team, apt pupil Lee had already learned so much about what it took to be a goalkeeper at the highest level.
“I was never so comfortable standing into goal. That's because when I was coaching with Aoife she always told me that I never listened, but I did!
“Her experience, she's changed how camogie is played so we would replicate loads of things that she's brought in over the years. It was almost like nothing stepping up because I was so used to how the game should be played, how I should manage the backline, how we should talk to them, and all that stuff.”
This position of goalkeeper has evolved so much in recent years and become so central to a team’s game-plan its no surprise to hear that Lee feels like she’s still very much a work in progress and learning all the time.
“Loads. First of all the silly mistakes you do when you're younger...that could be put down to not enough coaching for goalies. Even in my own club you would struggle for a specific goalie coach.
“I did mess up along the way, and I could probably waffle about how I've messed up along the way. I ironed out those small mistakes, got more comfortable on the ball, and my catching... I didn't catch a ball until I was 21, I'd say - any high ball I was batting all day long!
“My communication, I didn't talk much until I was 21 or 22. All those small things. Playing in goal is all confidence. If you feel you'll play well, you will.
Lee will be a key figure for Cork in Saturday’s Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 1 Final against Galway.
Her unflappable nature allows her to radiate calm throughout her defence, though she admits it didn’t always come easy to her.
Mental strength and a knack for not dwelling on mistakes are arguably the most essential traits for goalkeepers, but you don't develop them overnight.
“A few years ago I definitely would have let mistakes niggle at me. Aoife (Murray) was always telling me to forget about it. She'd have her own little thing to help her forget about mistakes she's done.
“Now, if we concede a goal, I just have confidence that someone is going to score one for me, or three points for me, because they know the goal has gone in and they'll do that for me. It has become a lot easier to forget about it and move on.
“There's always time, two or three minutes in a game, you don't know what's going to happen in that time. I know a goal is three points but a lot can happen in two or three minutes at the end of a game.
“I remember reading a book when I was in secondary school and on the back of it it said, 'A goalkeeper walks on a tightrope between triumph and disaster.' It's so true.
“There's only a few mistakes you'll get away with in goals. We've all been there. I could point out two or three mistakes I've made out on the pitch there (Croke Park), but it's about learning to deal with them.
“We've had sports psychologists and stuff over the years. There's things you should do after a mistake to drive you on and stuff. I think I have it down now to a tee”.