A court has heard how troubled soccer star Paul McGrath is "extremely embarrassed" and finds it difficult to deal with the "very public humiliation" arising from his conduct.
The 53-year-old former Ireland international has agreed to give a day’s football coaching to youngsters after admitting to public order charges at Tullamore District Court yesterday.
He appeared in court on charges relating to an incident at the Tullamore Court Hotel on Jun 29.
Mr McGrath, of Tomsallagh, Ferns, Co Wexford, pleaded guilty to the charges of threatening and abusive behaviour and being intoxicated.
Insp John Lawless said: "gardaí were called by staff to the Tullamore Court Hotel at 3.10am". On arrival they found Mr McGrath "shouting in a disturbed manner".
"He was drunk and attempted to get into two parked cars," he said.
Solicitor Donal Farrelly said that on the morning Mr McGrath was arrested "he had consumed a lot of alcohol" following a wedding at a different location the previous day.
"Paul unfortunately has a debilitating disorder called a social phobia," said Mr Farrelly. "In social situations he suffers from acute anxiety... to deal with that anxiety he sometimes turns to drink." His agent normally accompanies him but was unable to do so on this occasion.
He said his client had handed a letter of apology to the gardaí as well as hotel staff and customers.
Judge Alan Mitchell asked if he would be prepared to coach youngsters. Mr McGrath said: "Yeah, I’ll do it, no problem."
Mr McGrath chatted with fans, signed autographs and thanked gardaí before leaving the court house.
Children at a small amateur soccer club are ecstatic at a judge’s order for Paul McGrath to coach them instead of being prosecuted for public order offences.
Youngsters from the U7s team up to the U18s side at Tullamore Town FC are not old enough to remember the former Republic of Ireland international’s heyday on the pitch.
But Barry Hennessy, club secretary, said the one-time Manchester United and Aston Villa player remains such a hero that the children cannot wait to run out with the troubled star.
"Paul McGrath is such a big name, that he is known all over the place and the kids will know him even though its been nearly 20 years since he was playing," he said.
"He’s such a legend the kids will be really excited about it.
"I don’t want to comment on Paul’s troubles," said Mr Hennessy, a 40-year-old factory worker who is one of a small band of volunteers running the club.
"But the good in Paul far outweighs any misdemeanours he has been in court for today."
Tullamore Town, which does not even have a team in the national league, is still awaiting formal confirmation that McGrath will train the youth sides for a day as a court-ordered reparation for a drunken outburst during a family wedding.
- Brian Hutton