Family ties for Yvonne Lee with the Limerick ladies

April 27, 2024

Sisters Grace, left, and Yvonne Lee, of Limerick pictured with their mother Breda Holton Lee after the Lidl LGFA National League Division 4 semi-final match between Leitrim and Limerick ©Seb Daly/Sportsfile

By Daire Walsh  

In the relatively short time since she first made her debut in the adult ranks of inter-county football, Monagea’s Yvonne Lee has quickly established herself as an influential figure within the Limerick defence. 

Less than two years after featuring for the Treaty County in an All-Ireland premier junior camogie championship decider against Kerry at Croke Park, Lee made her bow in the big ball game at right corner-back in a Lidl National Football League Division 4B bout with Offaly at Bord na Mona O’Connor Park on May 30, 2021.

The primary school teacher went on to make a total of six starts during her debut season and while she wasn’t involved in 2022, she returned to the panel a year later and was an ever-present at full-back in Limerick’s march to the TG4 All-Ireland junior football championship final. 

One of two vice-captains in 2023 - Ballylanders stalwart Cathy Mee was the other - Lee saw her status within the group elevated even further for the current inter-county season when she was named as joint-skipper along with Old Mill midfielder Roisin Ambrose. 

“It was a huge honour to be asked to captain the team alongside Roisin. It has been great. It’s easy to captain the girls in fairness, they are a great bunch. To be alongside Roisin is super as well. She’s an expert at it and it’s great to be able to work alongside her,” Lee acknowledged. 

In addition to counting her as a team-mate for that camogie showpiece in 2019, Lee is also joined on the Limerick football panel by her older sister Grace. 

They played the full 60 minutes at Grant Heating St Brendan’s Park in Birr three weeks ago when Limerick lost out to Carlow in a Lidl NFL Division 4 final. There was another member of their family on the sideline for this game as their father Joe is part of the Limerick backroom team for 2024. 

“It’s nice to have him as well. He would have trained us in the club for many years. It’s nice having him involved with the county, especially with myself and Grace playing. It’s great to have him there,” Yvonne said of her father’s involvement with the Limerick ladies. 

“He would have been involved with the Limerick senior men’s footballers a few years ago and he’s involved with the Newcastlewest club as well. He’s well used to it at this stage.” 

After working alongside their predecessor Graham Shine in a coaching capacity, Sean Kiely and Michael Quilligan are now serving as co-managers of the Limerick team for the 2024 season. 

While their charges suffered further final disappointment in that Division 4 league duel with Carlow at the beginning of this month - having previously lost out to Down in last August’s All-Ireland JFC showpiece at Croke Park - it remained a successful spring campaign on the whole for Limerick. 

Due to a restructuring of the competition, two promotion places were up for grabs in the fourth-tier of the Lidl National Football League this year. This meant Limerick would be guaranteed a spot in Division 3 for 2025 if they managed to make it all the way to league final weekend and thanks to a penultimate round win over Leitrim on March 24, this particular objective was achieved. 

“It’s a huge achievement for us to get there and we were delighted with that win against Leitrim. It is what we’ve been looking for, for the last few years and we’ve been there or thereabouts the last few years. Getting that is something that we need to focus on. Be happy with that achievement alone and learn from the mistakes in the final itself.” 

Considering they have won the last three Limerick senior club championship titles - Yvonne was captain of the side for the first of those victories in 2021 - it comes as little surprise that Monagea have such a large representation on the Limerick panel at the present time.  

For their Division 4 league final reversal to Carlow, the Lee sisters were joined in the starting 15 by the attacking triumvirate of Karen O’Leary, Deborah Murphy and Ellie Woulfe. Another pair of Monagea footballers, Grace Mullane and Roisin Browne, were also introduced as substitutes in Limerick’s eventual 1-7 to 0-6 loss against the Barrowsiders. 

Had it not been for her prowess in a different sport, a former playing colleague of Lee could well have aided their effort to secure a first Division 4 crown since 2016. Before going on to make the Republic of Ireland women’s national team squad for their historic appearance at last year’s World Cup finals, Claire O’Riordan played alongside Lee for both Monagea and the Newcastle West camogie side. 

Now at Standard Liege in Belgium following previous spells with Celtic and German outfit MSV Duisburg, O’Riordan also represented Limerick in both Gaelic codes during her formative sporting years. While admitting it would be nice to still have the 29-year-old beside her on the field of battle, Lee is in no way shocked that O’Riordan has blossomed into such a gifted soccer player. 

“She was unbelievable. A superstar here in Newcastle West! We were devastated to lose her, but when you see how far she’s gotten, we can’t really complain. She was brilliant at both football and camogie. 

“I feel like she’s the type of person that could take up any sport and she’d be amazing at it. She was unbelievable. She was so skillful and everything. Soccer was the route she went down, but I’d say if it was a different destiny I could be playing alongside her. Absolutely.” 

Yet O’Riordan will undoubtedly be looking on from afar later this summer as Limerick aim to go a step further than 2023 in the latest edition of the TG4 All-Ireland junior football championship. 

Before then, the Treaty will seek to get the very most out of the Munster Senior ‘B’ Championship - starting today with a 1pm encounter against Kerry at Fr Casey’s GAA in Abbeyfeale. 

Due to the fact that Clare and Limerick are the only teams in the All-Ireland intermediate and junior championships respectively, they find themselves in this competition alongside second-string selections from both Kerry and Cork. 

“It’s great to have it because it’s a long block otherwise between the league and championship. Matches are what you need to get the match fitness going and getting used to each other again,” Lee added. 

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