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Ex-GAA star brought firm to brink of ruin after embezzling over £500k

By Michael Donnelly

Published 07/05/2016

Former All-Ireland GAA medal winner John Malachy McGurk will find out next week what sentence he will receive for helping himself to over half a million pounds from one of Northern Ireland's best-known construction firms
Former All-Ireland GAA medal winner John Malachy McGurk will find out next week what sentence he will receive for helping himself to over half a million pounds from one of Northern Ireland's best-known construction firms

Former All-Ireland GAA medal winner John Malachy McGurk will find out next week what sentence he will receive for helping himself to over half a million pounds from one of Northern Ireland's best-known construction firms.

Antrim Crown Court heard that the former Co Derry GAA star, from Drummuck Road near Maghera, brought the family-run quarry and tarmac firm Patrick Bradley Ltd to the verge of bankruptcy. The 50-year-old company accountant pleaded guilty to the theft of £572,206 from Bradley's and 34 other charges involving fraud by abuse of his position of trust from July 2006 until the end of 2011.

Prosecution lawyer Amanda Brady also revealed that when McGurk's thefts were uncovered, he tried to pay nearly £40,000 of their own monies back to the company.

Ms Brady said that one of the company directors initially told McGurk he and several others were to be questioned about certain financial irregularities, to which he replied, "It's me," before offering his resignation from the company.

McGurk, who also helped his local Lavey team lift the 1991 GAA All-Ireland club title, said he thought he had taken up to £50,000.

Two days later, in an email, he suggested that he had no assets and that he may have taken more than £157,000 to pay for his gambling.

When questioned by police, he said he had been taking monies for about six or seven years, starting with small amounts, but that it soon escalated.

McGurk also then estimated that he had taken between £200,000 and £300,000, and "would be surprised if it were more".

However, he finally accepted that he had taken more than half a million pounds from the firm where he had been in a position of trust which he breached.

Other aggravating features included the substantial amount of money taken and the substantial period over which this had occurred, the court heard.

Defence lawyer Seamus McNeill described McGurk as a broken man who wished to publicly and humbly apologise to all for his disgraceful and outrageous behaviour, his breach of trust and the personal hurt, and the financial jeopardy he may have caused.

The apology came, said Mr McNeill, not from a Johnny-come-lately, but from a man, once revered, but whose life now lay in "utter ruins".

"You have before you," he said, "a broken man... a man now burdened by shame and disgrace".

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