Football coach wins text defamation action


A FOOTBALL coach, who claimed he was defamed in text messages after reassuringly embracing one of his trainees, has been awarded damages in the Circuit Civil Court.

Frank McClelland (62), St James’s Walk, Rialto, Dublin, told the court that in March 2009, he was a goalkeeping coach for aspiring footballers at Crumlin United.

During training he had consoled an upset youngster by putting his arms around him, telling him “you are still the best”. Later he saw two defamatory text messages about him sent by Ronan Kelly.

Mr McClelland told Circuit Court president Mr Justice Matthew Deery the texts had been exchanged between people and some had not talked to him for two years. He said he had a history of depression, which had been medically controlled before the event, but he had become so upset afterwards his GP referred him for psychiatric treatment. He had been prescribed with anti-depressants.

He told the court that following the incident he was afraid to have anything to do with youngsters. The text messages had “destroyed” him. He sued Kelly of Stillorgan, Co Dublin, for defamation.

Kelly said the texts had been part of a private communication. He had not meant to defame Mr McClelland and had offered him an apology, which the coach refused. Kelly declined an invitation to apologise to McClelland in court.

Awarding €15,000 damages for defamation of character, the judge said there had been no apology and no evidence Mr McClelland had acted inappropriately.