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Clodagh Cavanagh
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2017 Recipient of Outstanding Achievement UL Alumni Award – Business


Born and raised in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Clodagh Cavanagh is the fifth generation of her family to make a living out of forging steel for the benefit of farming customers. From a very young age, Clodagh has been surrounded by a family of hardworking people. Her grandparents, Joe and Mary Cavanagh, set up Abbey Machinery Ltd in 1947 and her father, Charles Cavanagh took over running the business in the late 1970’s. Clodagh’s father oversaw the development of the business until he handed over the reins to his daughter in 2012.

As far back as the 1800’s, the Cavanagh’s were renowned blacksmiths who became famous for the “Cavanagh Plough” back in the 1900’s. Clodagh's grandfather Joe, a trained blacksmith, emigrated to the USA in the 1940’s where he picked up welding techniques from shipyards on the West Coast. On his return to Ireland, Abbey Machinery Ltd was born, with Joe Cavanagh as the engineer and innovator, with wife Mary Cavanagh as the businesswoman.

Growing up, Clodagh was always enthused with the ethos of the family business and in particular, she greatly admired her grandmother who became her role model.  Clodagh recalls “My grandmother was a very strong businesswoman in the 1940s, which was really unheard of then." This led to Clodagh launching her own very successful career, first by graduating from the University of Limerick in 2003 with a Bachelor’s Degree (Honours) in Business Studies. The following year, she joined the family business as a trainee accountant, after spending a year in Australia & New Zealand. Clodagh recalls “it was during this period abroad that I fully realised my strong connection with the business and I decided that it was where I wanted to develop my career.”

Over the following eight years at Abbey Machinery, Clodagh learned the ropes before stepping into the Managing Director role in 2012. During this time, she became a member of the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants and completed the Leadership 4 Growth CFO programme with Enterprise Ireland at Stanford University, California. Clodagh is also an active member of the Farm Tractor & Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA), as well as Action For Jobs committee in the Mid-West Region.

Now aged 37, Clodagh notes that her rise to Managing Director coincided with an upsurge of interest in agricultural science in Ireland and more emphasis on education. People see the value of science in raising crop yields, productivity and are keen to be a part of this renaissance.

Today, Abbey Machinery is one of Ireland’s largest and most respected manufacturers of agricultural equipment, with technology catering for the ‘Total Cow’. It specialises in the manufacture and distribution of Agricultural equipment, including Slurry, Muck Handling and Feeding Equipment around the world, in markets as diverse as Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, France, Poland and the UK. Clodagh says “One of the big buzzes for me is seeing a machine born and bred in Ireland working away in a field in somewhere like Iceland!"

Abbey Machinery operates from a new modern factory which stands on a 30 acre site and 100,000ft² of factory buildings in Toomevara, Co. Tipperary, which incorporates a dedicated Research & Development area of 12500 ft². The decision to build this new facility on a greenfield site was one of Clodagh's first major projects after she became Managing Director and it has been a huge success. This thriving indigenous organisation currently employs just under 100 people, the majority of whom are based at its Toomevara plant, with the remainder consisting of field sales staff throughout Ireland, UK and International Markets, plus retail and service staff at its retail outlets in Nenagh and Clonmel. Clodagh believes that one of Abbey Machinery’s key success factors is their in-house expertise. Clodagh explains “Nearly half of all our staff has farming interests, so they bring that know-how to their work.”

The ethos of the family business is still hugely evident in Abbey Machinery with Clodagh working alongside her two brothers, Owen Cavanagh – Director & Quality Manager and Cormac Cavanagh – Supply Chain Manager. In a male-dominated industry, Clodagh never shies away from a challenge and has been honoured with many outstanding awards, including the inaugural Anna May McHugh Female Leadership in Agriculture Perpetual Trophy 2017. She was also nominated for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. In fact, Clodagh is an ambitious woman on several missions and is also proud mother to two beautiful boys with husband, Stephen Smyth.



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