Former GAA hurling coach jailed for two years for sexual abuse of boys at his club
A former hurling coach has been sent to jail for two years for the sexual abuse of two boys.
At Ennis Circuit Court yesterday, Judge Carroll Moran said that James “Tony” Maher carried out a breach of trust in abusing one of the victims whom Maher coached hurling to at the Banner GAA club’s under-12 and under-14 hurling sides in Ennis, Co Clare.
Former chairman, PRO and founder member of the Banner GAA club, Maher (69), Clonroad Beg, Ennis, pleaded guilty to 18 counts of indecent assault on the two boys on dates between January 1982 and April 15th, 1985.
Judge Moran said the abuse of the two boys was “unacceptable” and had taken place over a protracted period of time.
“The two boys were very young and one boy was quite unaware of what was happening when the abuse began. Young people are entitled to protection from this kind of manipulative exploitation and destruction of their innocence.”
He said that an aggravating factor was that along with coaching one of his victims, Maher had ingratiated himself with the victim’s family.
In victim impact statements read out in court, both victims said that they had attempted suicide in the years after the abuse stopped and had become addicted to alcohol.
The former underage hurler described Maher in his statement as a “monster”. He was aged 12 when the abuse started, on January 1st, 1982, and continued until March 17th, 1984, when he was one month away from his 15th birthday, while the second victim was aged 11 in 1983 when the abuse started.
Judge Moran said that the abuse had a traumatic impact on the two victims. In one instance, Maher carried out a sex act on one of the boys in the toilets of Clare County Council’s Ennis headquarters, where he worked as a draughtsman.
The judge also said that Maher travelled to Dublin by train with one of the victims, posing as father and son, when they checked into a BB.
Judge Moran said that Maher pleaded guilty when there was no corroborative evidence and that was very significant.
“He now has insight into what he did. The acts were committed in the early 1980s and if the cases were disposed of then, they would have been dealt with on a different sentencing approach.”
The judge said that Maher was “a person of otherwise good character and no other relevant convictions. I am sure he has been otherwise severely punished, suffering shame and humiliation in a small community in which he lives.”
Concurrent jail terms
Judge Moran said that there was no evidence that Maher had reoffended. However, “after giving the case considerable consideration, I believe that the aggravating factors are such that I cannot avoid imposing a jail term”.
He imposed a concurrent two-year jail term on each of the counts.
The Banner GAA club had stated before yesterday’s sentencing that it was “appalled that someone in a position of trust could have behaved is such a despicable manner towards young children”.