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Saturday 17 November 2018

Sex abuse GAA star in new bid for freedom

JAILED child sex abuser and former GAA star Martin Coogan is to make a Supreme Court appeal next month in a further bid for freedom.Coogan, a former Kilkenny hurler with four All-Ireland medals, was convicted 18 months ago of indecent assault on two young girls and sentenced to four years in jail.

He is to make the appeal to the country's highest court in mid-February in what legal sources said was a highly unusual move.

The detailed grounds for the latest appeal by the school caretaker are not yet clear but they are believed to be concerned with sentencing policy.

His legal team includes one of the country's leading lawyers, Garrett Sheehan, in an action which is expected to cost at least £15,000.

The former player, a father-of-two, was found guilty in June 1996 of indecently assaulting a 10-year-old girl nine years previously. He also pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting a nine-year-old girl 12 years previously.

Last summer Coogan failed in an appeal against the four-year sentence in the Court of Criminal Appeal which affirmed the prison term.

The case has bitterly divided Kilkenny, and in particular Castlecomer, with a group of GAA supporters and friends lobbying for a re-trial or to have Coogan released.

He was honoured last year at a local GAA supporters' ceremony where he was described as a ``gentleman on and off the field'', although Croke Park decided not to honour him at last year's All-Ireland hurling final.

One of the young women assaulted by Coogan said the ``torture'' would never go away.

Concern was expressed by a number of people in the area that Coogan may have been given liberal treatment while in prison.

Department sources confirmed that Coogan was allowed go on an ``escorted outing'' at Christmas 1996.

The Minister for Justice is also believed to have received a number of letters seeking clemency for Coogan, while a petition seeking his release was also organised.

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