The sporting and wider community of Clonmel was in shock this week following the sudden death of renowned swimming coach Liam Clooney.
Liam, from Lisronagh, Clonmel, passed away on Saturday afternoon, having returned home from a coaching session with the elite swimmers of Clonmel Swimming Club and a meeting with his fellow club coaches.
A nationally and internationally respected swimming coach, Liam will be greatly missed by all those who knew him, especially his family, wife Shirley, sons Stuart and Adam and his daughter Natalie, also his mother Eileen, grandson James, sister Monica, and extended family. He will be laid to rest today, Wednesday, at St Patrick’s Cemetery, following his funeral mass at Lisronagh Church.
Liam was not only one of the top coaches at Clonmel Swimming Club and a Munster Squad coach, but in the week before he died he was chosen as one of the top ten coaches in Ireland who were to pilot a new swim coaching programme.
Tributes to Liam in the sporting world were led by Swim Ulster who extended their condolences to Liam’s family circle.
The Lisronagh man was involved in swimming for twenty years. Someone who was always interested in sports, his interest in swimming was piqued when his daughter, Natalie, took up the sport. Because she was swimming with Waterford Swimming Club he took courses and became a qualified gala official there. He was also did some assistant coaching in Waterford.
In 1995 he was appointed head coach in Clonmel. He went on to become a qualified swimming teacher and ASA coach qualified to national level with an NVQ4 qualification (the highest level). In 1997 he was made a fellow of the Institute of Teachers and Coaches. He was first appointed as swimming coach to the Munster squad in 2007 and was a member of the Munster High Performance Swimming committee. His dedication to and interest in swimming saw Liam study for a diploma in sports psychology specialising in swimming and qualify as a trainer by Swim Ireland.
Yet friends described Liam as a private and modest man, and extremely generous. He was delighted when others won awards but never put himself forward for accolades.
Fellow coach Nell McCarthy, who trained swimmers alongside Liam for 15 years, said he was “full of everything positive” at their meeting last Saturday. He had had a good coaching session, he was proud of his children and he was working on future projects for the swimming club.
Members of the Elite and ‘A’ swim teams, that were coached by Liam, will form a guard of honour at his funeral. In memory of Liam and his hard work the swimmers returned to training on Monday, because they felt it would be his wishes. Club chairperson Polly Murphy spoke at the poolside and there was a moment’s silence in memory of Liam.