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*Photograph: Mark Hayes

Clare hurling and camogie teams will find themselves at a disadvantage to other counties if they cannot match the financial support at their disposal, the newly appointed secretary of Club Clare has said.

During a 26 year career in public office, Tony Killeen served as a TD and councillor, his most high-profile role arising towards the end of his political career when he succeeded his Fianna Fáil colleague Willie O’Dea as Minister for Defence. Now the former primary school principal has taken over from Pat Keogh as secretary of Club Clare with Keogh replacing John Kerin as Chairman.

By getting involved with the supporters club, Killeen believed it was his way of making a “little contribution” to aiding the efforts of Clare’s hurling and camogie teams. “I look around me and see very substantial levels of support for other counties from various fundraising events, it clearly has a positive impact on their preparation and ultimately on their performance”.

This year, Club Clare will also be aiding county camogie teams. “We’re all becoming a bit more aware how half of the population has been excluded to an extent heretofore, on that basis we were happy to include camogie”. He referenced the valuable contribution of female players to primary school and underage sides in the past. “We thought it was timely, sensible and good practice to include the game of camogie with our efforts to fundraise and support the county. I’ve been to Croke Park, Birr and all kinds of places for camogie matches, the atmosphere is fantastic, you’re every bit as proud that the Clare girls won whatever it was as you would be if the Clare senior hurlers did it”.

What were once considered extras are now staples for most high-performing sides prompting the expense associated with inter-county outfits. Tony outlined, “The truth is that we’re in a professional era in terms of the preparation input, we have wonderful athletes in this county and other counties who dedicate a huge amount of time and effort and bring us all a great deal of enjoyment and pride to be watching our own national games and seeing them perform to such a standard. The counties that don’t provide this additional level of finance find themselves at a huge disadvantage, any of the high performers are accessing finance”.

Corporate support has been ever-present since Club Clare’s establishment in 2017. With the prospect of fans attending games in 2021 unlikely, the committee have invited the public to become members at a cost of €50 (individual) or €100 (family). “All of that money would go toward the support for this particular season to both hurling and camogie teams from U14 to senior,” he explained. No specific target has been set for the desired amount of members but Killeen is hopeful the figure will hit 1500.

Everyone involved with Club Clare is there in a voluntary capacity “with the best of intentions,” the Kilnaboy resident stated when questioned if the committee feared scepticism from the public in light of recent question marks on the expenditure of supporters clubs. “Every euro that is collected will go towards supporting the teams directly, nobody who puts in the time and the members of the committee have put in huge time and effort, the only thing they want from it is that the Clare team would have an equal opportunity with every other team whether it is U14 or right through to senior, we’re prepared to give our time and effort to ensure that. We simply have no interest in any controversies that may be going on and we’re not going to be distracted by theme either”.

Each member will be given a breakdown of what their contribution was spent on, he confirmed. Club Clare accounts for 2019 have yet to be audited but will be shared in the near future along with the 2020 equivalent.

Their main fundraiser for this year is a Celebrity Golf Classic in Doonbeg in early June. Although he hasn’t received confirmation from any of contacts at Government level, Tony is hopeful an opening of outdoor events will arise as the summer arrives.

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