A FORMER hurling coach is beginning a two-year jail sentence for the sexual abuse of two young boys.
Judge Carroll Moran said that James 'Tony' Maher (69) carried out a breach of trust in abusing one of the victims who he had coached hurling at the Banner GAA club in Ennis.
Maher, of Clonroad Beg, Ennis, pleaded guilty to 18 separate counts of indecent assault on the two boys on dates between January 1982 and April 1985.
He is a former chairman, PRO and founder member of the Banner GAA club.
In victim impact statements read out in court, both victims said that they had attempted suicide in the years after the abuse and had become addicted to alcohol.
One was just 11 when the abuse started, and the other boy was 12. He described Maher as a "monster".
The Banner GAA club said it was "appalled that someone in a position of trust could have behaved is such a despicable manner towards children".
The judge said: "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."
The judge said that an aggravating factor was that along with coaching one of his victims, he had ingratiated himself with the victim's family.
Ennis Circuit Court heard that Maher carried out a sex act on one of the victims in the toilets of Clare County Council's headquarters, where he was employed as a council draughtsman.
The judge also said that Maher travelled to Dublin by train with one of the victims, posing as father and son, where they checked into a B&B.
But the judge said that Maher pleaded guilty when there was no corroborative evidence and that is 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 added that Maher "is 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".
However, Judge Moran said that "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.