Belfast Telegraph

Donnelly sacked by Cliftonville as club bows to pressure

Club bows to pressure and fires jailed sex offender

Former Cliftonville player Jay Donnelly outside court
Former Cliftonville player Jay Donnelly outside court
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Jay Donnelly was yesterday sacked by Cliftonville FC, 24 hours after being jailed for sharing an indecent image of a child.

The striker was informed in writing that his contract had been terminated.

The north Belfast club, which had been under mounting pressure to cut its ties with the player, is expected to confirm the news today.

Donnelly is in custody in Maghaberry Prison after being jailed earlier this week.

He was handed a three-month prison term on Tuesday by a judge who rejected an appeal for his sentence to be suspended.

Donnelly previously admitted distributing a photograph of the then 16-year-old girl, taken while they were having sex in 2016.

He was originally sentenced to four months in jail in January but was released on bail pending an appeal.

On Tuesday a judge at Belfast County Court reduced his term to three months but refused to suspend the sentence.

Last night sources said the club had sacked the player.

It is understood Cliftonville FC took advice on employment law and that a letter was sent to Donnelly in jail informing him of the decision.

No one from the club could be reached for comment last night.

However, a source indicated a statement was expected today.

It comes as details emerged of the player’s first hours in jail.

A prison source said Donnelly is restricted from playing football due to the nature of his conviction.

The source told the Belfast Telegraph that after the footballer’s appearance at Belfast County Court, he was transported to Maghaberry, where he is expected to remain for the duration of his sentence.

They also revealed Donnelly spent his first full day inside under the observation of prison staff.

The 24-year-old, who publicly apologised to his victim following the appeal outcome, will not be allowed to join fellow inmates playing football.

While Maghaberry does not have an official football team, prisoners engage in the sport on a recreational basis.

However, it is understood Donnelly’s sex offender status means he will not be allowed to participate.

“The fact that he’s on the sex offenders’ register prevents it,” the source said.

The prison service refused to confirm Donnelly’s location, with a spokesperson saying yesterday that it does not comment on individual prisoners.

The footballer, of Ardilea Drive in Belfast, took the photograph of himself having sex with the girl in June 2016.

He shared the image with a friend and a WhatsApp group with 10 members, including some team-mates. It was later leaked on social media.

At a hearing at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on November 23, he admitted distributing the image.

The following day, he played in a fixture against Linfield.

It is unclear whether Cliftonville knew of the guilty plea at that time.

Donnelly has not played for the club since then.

After his prison term was confirmed this week, Donnelly apologised to his victim.

In a statement issued by his solicitor, he said he accepted the court’s decision.

The Irish FA is considering a charge against Jay Donnelly of bringing the game into disrepute.

Belfast Telegraph

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