Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville stays silent on Jay Donnelly future after child image conviction

By Alan Erwin and Mark Bain

Cliftonville FC was staying silent last night on the future of footballer Jay Donnelly after the player was convicted of distributing an indecent image of a child.

The 23-year-old Irish League striker pleaded guilty to the charge last week, the Northern Ireland Courts Service confirmed.

A separate count of taking or making an indecent photograph was withdrawn.

Donnelly, of Ardilea Drive in the Ardoyne area of Belfast, is now due to be sentenced at the city's magistrates court in January.

The case against him related to a date unknown between June and October 2016.

The Courts Service confirmed he was convicted of one charge - distributing or showing an indecent image of a child, following a guilty plea entered last Friday.

Pre-sentence reports have now been ordered and Donnelly is expected back in court early in the new year.

Donnelly has continued to appear for Cliftonville since the allegations emerged.

He was named in the squad for last Saturday's Danske Bank Premiership match against Linfield at Windsor Park.

It is unknown whether Cliftonville were aware of the guilty plea ahead of last Saturday's game.

The club was previously unaware that Donnelly had been charged in the week before he played against Carrick Rangers on November 3 last year.

Last night social media was swamped with calls from supporters of other Irish League clubs for Mr Donnelly to be sacked by the north Belfast club.

Councillor Jim Rodgers, a lifelong Glentoran supporter and former director of the club, said Cliftonville will have to make a decision.

"Obviously I condemn what he has been involving himself in," said Mr Rodgers.

"He's a great young footballer and it's sad to see him in this situation.

"I'm pleased he has now pleaded guilty and it's now up to his club to decide whether they want him to play in their team until he is due back in court for sentencing next January and afterwards.

"What he has done is appalling and he should obviously be ashamed, but I do hope he learns a valuable lesson.

"There have been players before who have been before the courts on various charges who have been allowed to play on, though what he has admitted to is particularly appalling."

Donnelly rose through the club's youth teams and second team, Cliftonville Olympic, before his debut in the Charity Shield victory over Ballymena United in August 2014.

He has also played for the Northern Ireland Under-21 side and signed a new contract with Cliftonville in May after scoring 25 goals for the Reds during the 2017/18 season.

Until the start of this season he had made 160 appearances for Cliftonville.

Belfast Telegraph

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