Tipperary senior hurling goalkeeper Darren Gleeson.
All-Ireland winning Tipperary goalkeeper Darren Gleeson has admitted obtaining by deception €10,000 from an elderly man over four years ago.
Mr Gleeson, who is due to line out for the defending All-Ireland champions in their championship qualifier match against Westmeath this weekend, pleaded guilty at Nenagh Circuit Court on Tuesday morning to a breach of section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.
He was given a three and a half year suspended prison sentence.
He was due to go on trial before Judge Thomas Teehan and a jury but his barrister John O'Kelly SC indicated at the outset of the court sitting that a jury would not be required.
Mr Gleeson (36), of Shesharoe, Portroe, Co Tipperary, was charged with two counts of stealing a total of €32,000 from a Timothy Heenan (80) in 2013, and two alternate counts of obtaining the same monies by deception.
He pleaded guilty before the jury panel to one count of obtaining €10,000 by deception.
Justin Dillon SC, for the State indicated that this plea was acceptable to the DPP subject to the facts of the other charge, relating to deception being put before the court. He said that, in due course, the State would enter a "nolle prosequi" in relation to the theft charges.
Darren Gleeson was Tipperary's starting goalkeeper when they beat Kilkenny in last year's All-Ireland senior hurling final and was a substitute when they won against the same opposition in 2010. He has also won six Munster championship medals, an All-Star award and a National Hurling League medal.
Nenagh circuit court heard that the 36-year-old star hurler had a "significant gambling problem" for which he has been in counselling since 2015, having made a "large number of transactions" with Paddy Power, and also lost money through investments made prior to the economic crash.
Detective Garda Martin Connolly told the court that, on different dates in 2013, Timothy Heenan had separate sums of €10,000 and €22,000 to invest. He gave cheques in these amounts to Darren Gleeson, who was the director of a financial services company in Nenagh at the time.
One cheque was made out to "D Gleeson" and the other to "Darren Gleeson". The Garda told the court that there appeared to be some over-writing or under-writing on the €22,000 cheque, with the letters "PTSB," for Permanent TSB, visible underneath.
He was asked to investigate the matter after Mr Gleeson's own bank contacted the gardai with "concerns" about transactions. He met up with Mr Gleeson a number of times, on a voluntary basis, and on one occasion the accused said he had been given the money by Mr Heenan "as a loan". He also said that Mr Heenan and himself signed a loan agreement.
This was put to Mr Heenan who said the money "was not a loan" and was meant to be invested.
During one Garda interview, Mr Gleeson was asked if he had "a problem with gambling" as he was spending "vast amounts of money".
The accused replied "I won't deny I had a problem with gambling. I'm in the process of recovering from a problem I had with gambling, but I never asked for money for gambling."
Mr Gleeson's bank statements showed "a very large number of transactions in favour of Paddy Power," the court heard, and in one statement a credit amount of €48,000 had reduced to €23,000 "in a short period of time".
The money received from Mr Heenan had since been repaid, with interest, the court heard. Mr Heenan didn't want to see Darren Gleeson go to prison and wanted him to continue hurling.
The court heard that Mr Gleeson's career in finance is over and he has since secured employment with a mechanical services company. His employer, John Lenihan, gave evidence on his behalf and said he was an "exceptional" employee.
Hurling coach with Mr Gleeson's Portroe club John Sheedy, himself a former Tipperary goalkeeper, said he always regarded Darren as "a great leader" who is now in charge of the club's under-21 footballers. "All the young players look up to him."
John O'Kelly SC, defending, said Mr Gleeson had a "serious problem with gambling" and handed in a report from a counsellor who said he had been attending counselling since September of 2015, sometimes twice weekly.
"At a certain stage, this was almost out of control," Mr O'Kelly said. He had also invested in property and Contract For Difference financial products, which left him in debt after the financial crash.