A Gaelic football coach has been sentenced to seven years and 10 months and placed on the list of sex offenders for a series of sex assaults on schoolboys.
Judge Petria McDonnell, who suspended two years of the sentence, described 72-year-old Ronan McCormack, as a man who “groomed” schoolboy footballers aged between 10 and 13 for sex abuse and had still not expressed remorse.
She said that, as a football coach trusted by parents, teachers, and children, there was definite predatory grooming involved.
During a three-hour sentencing at Sligo Circuit Court, the judge said: “He picked the teams, awarded the medals, appointed captains and tickets for matches. He was trusted by the children and their parents.”
McCormack was imprisoned for 53 of 54 charges of indecent assault on five boys. The only charge on which McCormack was acquitted was an accusation that, while umpiring an U12s football game, he indecently assaulted one of the goalkeepers on the pitch while the rest of the team was up the field.
The former Telecom Eireann worker, a father of three, and a farmer from Cuppanagh, Cloonloo, Co Sligo, who coached the U12 team at Eastern Harps GAA Club in nearby Keash, also abused boys on trips to Croke Park.
He was convicted of indecent assaults in his home, in his car, at a breakfast table in his kitchen, and on fishing trips. On one occasion he abused a schoolboy when showing him a county championship medal which he won with the club.
The offences were committed between October 1981 and August 1986, when he was aged between 39 and 44. He conned some of the boys’ families into believing they could safely sleep over at his home.
During that time, McCormack coached four of the boys for the U12s team. The fifth became known to him through a family friendship.
In a victim impact report, one of the victims, now aged 44, said: “This man has ruined a lot of my life.”
Another victim, now a father of four aged 49, recalled that when he told his mother what had happened, she was devastated and wanted him to do something about it. “I told her I was too ashamed and embarrassed to do anything about it.”
He found the trial extremely difficult and it “devastated” him when he had to tell his daughters, aged 14 and 16, what happened.
A 43-year-old father of two, who read his own victim impact statement in court said: “I question myself every day as to why I let this go on for three years.”
Judge McDonnell was told of an expert’s report that indicated McCormack, who continued to maintain his innocence, expressed no remorse.
Delia Flynn, defending, asked the judge to note that any sentence would have an impact on McCormack’s wife and daughters.
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