A judge suggested a drugs conviction might benefit a local football team in that the subsequent travel restrictions on its clubman would at least stop the club from losing one more player.
Judge Seamus Hughes made the quip in the case of Mark Furey (26 ), from Ascius Villas, Athlone, whose solicitor, Mr Benny Irwin, attempted to use the tried and tested defence in a drug possession charge that a conviction would limit his client’s ability to travel for work.
Earlier, Inspector Aidan Minnock had explained how Furey’s car was stopped on Bastion Street at 2.25am on November 23 where gardaí found €10 worth of cannabis, and a subsequent €40 worth after a personal search in the Garda station.
Mr Irwin told the court how his client had only one previous conviction, was a stonemason, a musician and a “keen footballer” with Gentex FC.
He explained how Furey wanted to follow a friend to Boston for work, but that a conviction here would seriously jeopardise these plans.
As is the usual defence in a minor possession case like this, Mr Irwin was hoping the promise of a substantial donation to the court’s poor box might get his client the benefit of the Probation Act, the mildest sanction available to the court, and one which does not register as a conviction.
Noting the strategem, and with some tongue in cheek, Judge Hughes pointed out the devasting effect emigration was having on sports clubs in Ireland and suggested that: “Gentex Football Club might fall apart if he leaves. This might have a very deleterious effect on the club. Just ask Mr [Padraig] Quinn [a solicitor with strong ties to local soccer]. He wants every footballer to stay in the country”.
Mr Irwin now upped his offer of the €250 poor box donation to include the possibility of a community service order to train youths at another local football club.
Relenting, Judge Hughes told him if he could organise all this by September 25, he would offer his client “a full strike out”.