Former ‘child prodigy’ footballer jailed for transporting drugs

Court told Robert Bayly (30) fell into gambling when he joined Leeds as a 14-year-old

A former Republic of Ireland and Leeds United youth team footballer has been jailed for 2½ years after being caught transporting almost €200,000 worth of cannabis.

Robert Bayly (30) was described by his barrister as "a child prodigy" who fell into gambling when he moved to Leeds United as a 14-year-old.

His gambling continued into adulthood and he ultimately agreed to transport the drugs to pay off a €6,500 debt, Dominic McGinn SC told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Bayly, of Cedarbrook Way, Ballyfermot, pleaded guilty to possession of the drugs for sale or supply at Cherry Orchard Drive on May 12th last.


Bayly, who also played for Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda United, has no previous convictions, the court heard.

Garda Neil McGrath told Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, that gardaí­ stopped the Nissan Almera Bayly was driving and noticed a "very strong smell of cannabis". Bayly admitted there was "weed in the boot" before gardaí­ discovered 10 packages of cannabis, worth an estimated €194,284.

Bayly told gardaí that he agreed to transport the drugs so that a gambling debt of €6,500 would be reduced. He said he was in fear for his life and those of his daughter and girlfriend.

Garda McGrath told Mr McGinn that officers accepted that Bayly gave “a truthful account” of his role in the operation. “I got the impression that he didn’t fully understand what was happening,” he said.


The court heard that Bayly told gardaí­ in interview that he was glad he was caught because it meant that “a huge amount of drugs wouldn’t make it onto the street”.

Mr McGinn told Judge Martin Nolan that Bayly had a "huge amount of contact" with the older players in the three years he spent in Leeds, which was where he was introduced to gambling. He said his client's addiction ran further out of control while he played for Shamrock Rovers and various other clubs.

“He was earning decent money as a footballer,” Mr McGinn said.

He said Bayly completed all but one week of a 12 week rehabilitative programme but left because he was offered a contract with Drogheda United.

Counsel said Bayly relapsed following the death of his grandmother and began to build up debt. He said he was under threat and at one point showed up for a match having been badly assaulted the night before.

Counsel handed in a number of testimonials and said Bayly was instrumental in helping football club Bluebell United set up a schoolboy training academy. He said he comes from a supportive family, is in a stable relationship and has a five-year-old daughter.

Mr McGinn said it would be “a tragic waste of my client’s abilities” if he were sent to jail.

Judge Nolan accepted that threats had been made against Bayly and that he felt forced to co-operate but he added that he was an adult when he committed the offence.

“He made a gross misjudgement. He should not have succumbed to those pressures,” Judge Nolan said before he jailed Bayly.