Sunday 21 January 2018

'This was never about Sean not getting a game' - Dad of teen who lost case against soccer club

'We never took this case because a 13-year-old wasn't getting a game.... this was far from a child just not getting a game'

Sean Cooke at Cork District Court with his parents Declan and Sharon Cooke. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Cork Courts Limited
Sean Cooke at Cork District Court with his parents Declan and Sharon Cooke. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Cork Courts Limited
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

A father whose son lost a civil case against a soccer club said the case was "never about Sean not getting a game".

Sean Cooke (18) claimed ill treatment by coaches at the club and said he suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after he was dropped from Carrigaline United when he was 13 years of age.

Sean told the court that he had dreamed of playing football in the UK but wasn't able to perform for British scouts when he was dropped from the team.

He lost his case at Cork Circuit Court yesterday.

Speaking to The Neil Prendeville Show on Red FM, Sean's father Declan Cooke said the media was "honing in on the fact that Sean never got a game".

"It couldn't be so far away from the truth," Mr Cooke said.

"I keep saying to Sean, the only person you have to worry about are your friends and family.

"They're the people who know what's going on and they're the people who know you."

Declan, who is an assistant manager with the Munster U18 team, said Sean was a "high-profile player".

"He played with Cork at the Kennedy Cup above in UL at 2012, at that time he was one of three players in nine years who represented Carrigaline at the Kennedy Cup.

"He was a high-profile player, he had been approached by an agent up in Limerick," he continued.

"We never took this case because a 13-year-old wasn't getting a game.

"No one saw what happened behind our own doors.

"This was far from a child just not getting a game.

"It was when he left Carrigaline United, the bullying, I could go into more, nobody knows the extent of it, the dogs of the street in Carrigaline all know."

He added later; "If your son comes home aged 14, with an accusation that someone was going to break your legs. What would you do?

"Would you sweep it under the carpet?

"That's why we took this case and that was totally denied in court."

"What would you do as a parent?"

Mr Cooke said there was a disagreement between him and a member of the club before the alleged ill treatment began.

"After the disagreement I went to a member of the club and said, 'I don't think he will be treated fairly'.

"After the first of the seven games, they played Sean for two of the seven games.

"For me as a coach, not every player is entitled to start every game.

"I was manager for Cork U18s last year and we won the All-Ireland.

"I'm currently Munster U18 assistant manager. I know what it's like to be involved in soccer and leaving out players, but Sean was very good."

Mr Cooke said his son "didn't feel comfortable" going back down to the club. He said when he joined rival club College Corinthians AFC "he started every single game.

"He was out in the middle of the park for every game, he was one of their main players."

The court heard that Carrigaline United had previously been managed by Sean Cooke's father Declan.

Coach Tim Mawe took over managing the team in 2011 and said everything was done to accommodate Sean but he said the teen missed a lot of pre-season training in 2012 because of an injury. When the season began Sean had to come off the pitch on one occasion because he was injured.

Mr Mawe said everything possible was done to accommodate Sean at the club.

Mr Cooke disputed Sean had any injury on air today.

"This is not about a child not getting a game. It was about what happened after he left Carrigaline - the bullying, the jeering.

"He was fit for the start of the season. Sean had started 32 out of the 33 games the season previous."

Mr Mawe conceded he was very hurt when Declan Cooke brought a vote of no confidence against him. However, he rebuffed suggestions from the plaintiff's barrister that he took any bad feelings out on Sean. "We picked on merit," he said.

Sean Cooke claimed that prior to a match with Ballincollig during the 2012 season Mr Mawe pulled him aside and said that he wasn't good enough to play. Mr Mawe denied this. Mr Mawe said Mr Cooke's mother arrived at the match and once she realised her son wasn't playing there was a "huge commotion".

Barrister for the plaintiff told the court that Sean Cooke didn't get the opportunity to play during a match which was attended by an Aston Villa talent scout.

Judge O'Donnabhain said it was an "emotional" and "difficult" case. He said Declan Cooke was undoubtedly a "caring parent" but that he was not "over-blessed with insight".

In dismissing the case he stated that coach Tim Mawe appeared to be "conscientious and truthful". A ruling on costs will be made at a later date.

Sean, from Highfields, Ballea Road, Carrigaline, Co Cork, posted a statement online after the case's conclusion yesterday and said he was proud of his legal action.

He said in a statement published on social media: "We wanted justice to be served."

The young man said he "had to leave the club I played for and loved since the age of six" as a result of being dropped from the team.

Sean continued: "I'm very proud of my parents for taking the stand for me and sticking up for what was the right thing to do...

"We feel justice has been served as this case has now been exposed and we can move on from these traumatic years and leave this case behind us."

Carrigaline Soccer Club has been contacted for comment. 

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