Tuesday 17 September 2019

'Majority of St Patrick's Ballyragget hurling team had nothing to do with those events in the pub'

A sign wishing the St Patrick’s team good luck in their hurling county final. Photo: Mark Condren
A sign wishing the St Patrick’s team good luck in their hurling county final. Photo: Mark Condren

Ian Begley and Robin Schiller

The young man at the centre of the Ballyragget GAA lewd photo controversy is a member of the club's intermediate county championship winning team.

The man, who is from a townland close to Ballyragget, was celebrating his 21st birthday on Tuesday night, with a small group of team mates from the Co Kilkenny club.

Photos and video from the incident - which occurred two days after the club won the county final - have gone viral, and sparked an investigation by the Kilkenny County Board.

The photos show two naked women with the group of men - in one picture, a woman appears to be performing a sex act on a man.

A source close to the team said they were devastated by what occurred.

They were also keen to stress that not all members of the team were there, just a "smaller group of six to seven members".

"The team won the championship on Sunday and it was a huge victory for the town. Afterwards, they went for dinner in a nearby hotel where their manager paid tribute to all their efforts over the last five years.

"They then returned to the square in Ballyragget for an impromptu homecoming and everybody was celebrating," they said.

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The celebrations continued in local bar Fitzpatrick's, where the cup was brought.

"But most people were back in work on Tuesday, after taking the Monday off, and the celebrations were over," they said.

"However, a small group continued celebrating into Tuesday as it was the young man's 21st birthday. The cup remained in the pub since the Sunday night and that is why it featured in the pictures. This was not a GAA event, or an event that was linked to Ballyragget GAA club in any way."

It's understood another man - who is not associated with the club - was drinking with the team mates on Tuesday.

He decided to hire two female strippers for the young man's birthday celebrations, unknown to the GAA players.

"The first the lads knew of the strippers was when they turned up to the pub," they said.

"By that stage, the young man and the team mates were very drunk. Camera phones were taken out, and dozens of pictures and videos were taken. Some of these were then posted onto Snapchat.

"On Wednesday morning, all hell broke loose, because people took screengrabs from Snapchat and downloaded the videos.

"These then went viral through a wide number of different WhatsApp groups. It is not the case that somebody inadvertently uploaded the footage to the wrong WhatsApp group," the source said.

"The majority of the team celebrated responsibly on the Sunday night, and had nothing to do with the events on Tuesday."

The young man at the centre of the scandal is described as coming from a "very respectable family" and is well liked.

Witnesses say he was very drunk on the night in question, and was perhaps unaware he was being photographed.

Meanwhile, a charity that works with women affected by prostitution and sexual exploitation has raised concerns with gardaí over the images.

Ruhama members are expected to meet with senior officers this morning over fears that a criminal act may have occurred if the females in question were paid for their services.

Ruth Breslin, a spokeswoman for Ruhama, slammed the incident, saying: "If these women were paid, these men were potentially breaking the law and they need to be made aware of this."

However, GAA headquarters has gone into lockdown over the controversy and has refused to comment on the incident.

Representatives for the GAA were contacted on three occasions yesterday but remained silent on the issue, stating: "This is a Kilkenny GAA issue."

President of the GAA Aogán Ó Fearghaíl, who attended the Cumann na mBunscol football finals in Croke Park yesterday afternoon, remained silent on the issue.

A former president of the GAA has described the controversy as "regrettable".

Sean Kelly, now a Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South, told the Irish Independent: "It's unfortunate that this happened, it was completely ill-judged.

"I'm sure the people involved regret it. It looks like a once-off and it should absolutely not happen again."

The team is due to face Kildare champions Ardclough in a Leinster intermediate game in Newbridge on November 4.

Irish Independent

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