GAA club hits back over its treatment of player Peadar Heffron who lost a leg in bomb attack
A Co Antrim Gaelic Club which has been accused of ostracising a former player - whose leg was blown off in a car bomb after he joined the PSNI - has hit back.
Kickhams Creggan GAC in Randalstown was slammed after Peadar Heffron revealed in a moving interview with well-known GAA pundit Joe Brolly his disappointment at his former club for not standing by him.
Mr Brolly then accused Kickhams Creggan of failing Mr Heffron after he told them he was considering joining the PSNI in 2002, and letting him down again when he was almost killed in the dissident republican bomb attack in 2010.
But a strongly-worded letter in Gaelic Life from P Mac an tSaoir, a committee member of Kickhams Creggan, said that Mr Brolly's criticism of the club only inflamed resentment and division.
Mr Brolly also referred to leaflets being handed to Mr Heffron on the club pitch critical of Catholics joining the PSNI and the appearance of posters around the village where he lived.
Defending the club's reaction to Mr Heffron's 2002 decision to join the PSNI, Mr Mac an tSaoir said it must be taken in the context of the time.
He said: "Joe Brolly cannot be allowed to go unchallenged as he continues to vilify Creggan Club and community.
"Peadar announced his decision to join the PSNI in 2002. There was no consensus amongst nationalists then that this represented a new beginning to policing.
"More evidence was emerging of police collusion with loyalists. The murder of Bellaghy chairman Sean Brown, whose body was dumped two miles from Creggan pitch, was suspected of having been the result of this.
"In short, there was a context.
"In light of Peadar's intention to become the first high profile Gaelic player in the PSNI, several considerations arose for the club.
"Most crucially was its duty of care for members due to the inevitable security presence at games and the risks arising from this. Also, could the senior team field if players left in protest?"
Writing in his regular column in the Sunday Independent, Mr Brolly recalled the reaction Mr Heffron faced from his former team mates and officials, saying "Two of the team leaders rounded on him, saying what the f*** was he thinking".
"No one said a word to him. His boyhood friends never spoke to him again. Out on the field, the manager ignored him. When teams were picked for training games, he was left standing."
Mr Mac an tSaoir also challenged Mr Brolly on his version of the leaflet drop, saying "some people expressed their disapproval" which he said "was equally valid" to Mr Heffron asking people to support his decision.
The lack of public support given to Mr Heffron by his former club in the aftermath of the attack on him is acknowledged by Mr Mac an tSaoir in his letter to Gaelic Life, but he said to do so could have looked hypocritical.
He continued: "Regarding the failure of the club to share formally its concern for Peadar and his family, it is most likely that because Peadar was embittered towards the club a feeling existed that such a gesture could have been perceived as hypocritical.
"The lack of a formal gesture of sympathy from the club is something which the club should consider some time in the future. His sense of betrayal is understandable.
"However, Joe's provocative attack on our club using terms such as 'rotten', 'cowardly' and 'self serving', rather than resolving anything, have sown resentment and division."
The Belfast Telegraph contacted Mr Brolly for a response.
He declined to comment.