A few weeks on from his appointment as the new Kilkenny senior camogie manager, former senior county hurler with Kilkenny and most recently the Clara camogie club manager and Carlow inter-county manager.
With a back room team yet to be unveiled, Cleere was appointed on an initial 12-month term earlier this month, having stepped down as Carlow’s senior camogie manager after one season in charge. During his term, he helped to steer Carlow to the VERY Camogie Division 3A league title and a Leinster intermediate camogie final only to be beaten by Kilkenny at SETU Carlow.
He took over the role from Brian Dowling who announced his departure in the wake of the Cats’ Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior camogie championship quarter-final exit at the hands of Cork. During his own time in charge, Dowling lead Kilkenny to All-Ireland senior titles in 2020 and 2022, going unbeaten through the league and championship in 2022 and twice collecting the overall Manager of the Year award. Dowling has since been announced as the new Kildare senior hurling manager for the 2024 season. Not exactly small shoes to fill for an incoming manager taking over the reins of his home county.
That notion was put to Cleere this week and he was more than happy to break down his approach to his new job.
An incredible privilege
“First of all, it’s an incredible privilege and a huge honour to manage your home county in any sport, but obviously in camogie where Kilkenny are so competitive
year in and year out”, Cleere told this week’s Camán Caint camogie podcast.
“If you look at their record over the last 10 years, they’ve been there or thereabouts along with Galway and Cork consistently. It’s a huge privilege, a huge honour to be asked to take on the role and it’s one that I take very seriously and that I’m really, really excited about and looking forward to getting stuck in.”
But following promotion and a Leinster final with Carlow, was a tough one to walk away from when the Kilkenny job came into the foreground?
“I loved my time with Carlow and I loved every single minute of it. They’re a fantastic group of girls and from where Carlow had come from in 2022 to achieve what we achieved in terms of winning the league and getting to a Leinster intermediate final and retain their intermediate status, I suppose everything that we had tried to achieve, we did.”
“We would love to have gone further in the championship but I suppose just wasn’t to be for 2023. But the progress that was made was fantastic and they’re a brilliant group of girls in Carlow and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they achieve going forward. There’s brilliant talent there and some great players coming through.
“When the opportunity to get involved in the role of county comes, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity really and it’s just something that I obviously have a huge interest in and when the opportunity came, I just jumped at it.
Opportunities for players
While he may yet have to meet the current selection of players on the senior setup, he will have an opportunity to cast his eye over existing and potential candidates for an inter-county jersey from now to the end of October with the Kilkenny Camogie club championships at the semi-final stages for the senior and intermediate grade this weekend.
With that in mind, those hopeful of earning a place on the inter-county setup look like they’ll have their chance. When quizzed about possible selections or scouting, Cleere suggested the club championships are the ideal proving ground with a lot of planning to do for 2024.
“It’s really important that all these players are getting the opportunity to play with their clubs and to flourish with their clubs. There’s been loads of matches over the last couple of weeks and to probably be able to see so many of them up close and personal. There is an existing panel from the 2023 senior panel and obviously, there’s an intermediate panel as well and I’ve met and spoken with Seamus (Kelly, intermediate manager) as well and we’re continuing to meet”, Cleere told Camán Caint.
“Then there’s a plethora of girls out there who haven’t been involved in county teams, who have an opportunity and have shown up for their clubs over the last couple of weeks. For me, that’s really important because if you can perform for your club in the white heat of battle then you know obviously you can bring that to the
county set up as well.”
“It’s a fantastic time to be involved with Kilkenny Camogie because there’s so much talent there and so much talent out in the county as well. It’s my job in conjunction with the back room team that we’ve put together and obviously with Seamus and the intermediate side of things to try and put in place as strong a squad as possible to to compete in the three competitions that are there.
We’ve got the National League coming up in February, we’ve got the Leinster campaign then in April and May and then obviously into the big one, the All-Ireland series, which is what it’s all about.
You can listen to the full interview below as part of episode nine of this season’s Camán Caint camogie podcast.
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