The 27 year old Clonard-man Willie Cleary has been nominated as Wexford minor hurling manager filling the shoes vacated by Martin Storey. This was following an exhaustive process including a series of interviews by the recruitment committee headed by the Chairman of Coiste na nÓg-Loch Garman, Des O’Neill (Ferns St. Aidan’s), and also comprising underage Secretary, Marion Doyle (Taghmon-Camross), Coaching Officer, Andrew Egan (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy), together with Ger Flood (Cloughbawn), Eamonn Mernagh (Oylegate-Glenbrien) and John O’Connor (St. Martin’s).
Cleary is one of the new breed of GAA managers, young, intelligent men who have purposefully sought out managerial roles. Jim McGuiness is the brand leader for this coaching revolution but Cleary makes the Donegal man look like an aged veteran.
His CV charts a prodigious rise starting with his arrival as a 20 year old in UCD where he took over the college’s freshers hurling team. His impact was such that the following year he was promoted to manage the college’s Fitzgibbon Cup team – regarded as one of hurling’s best competitions – a role previously held by ‘Babs’ Keating.
Cleary impressed UCD’s head of Gaelic Games Dave Billings to such an extent that he put him forward for the senior hurling manager’s job with the aristocrats of Dublin hurling St Vincent’s. Following a meeting with the Vincent’s chairman Brian Mullins, Cleary was appointed, at the age of 21,as the manager of their senior hurling team.
He spent 2 more years in the capital before returning home to Wexford where he took over the manager’s role with Rathnure whom he guided to last year county final versus Oulart. His trade mark is the professionalism and organisation that he brings to the job working hard to ensure that every training session is varied, organised and fast.
Cleary has been involved with the minor set up for the last two years as part of the backroom team and relishes the opportunity to make the step into the lead role. Speaking recently to the Irish Independent he outlined what inspired him to get involved saying;
“I always wanted to play for Wexford but I never had that talent to get to that level and there is no point saying otherwise. I wanted to be there on the big days. When you are brought to every big game and you see the crowds and the colour and the life that comes with these games, who wouldn’t want to be involved?”
His backroom team is expected to include Liam Griffin and Paul Carley bringing what is hoped will be a successful a blend of experience and ability to the minor hurling set up.