Irish League football club expected to sack jailed player

An Irish League football club is expected to announce the sacking of a player who was jailed for sharing an indecent image of a child.

The anticipated move comes after a judge hearing Jay Donnelly’s sentence appeal at Belfast County Court on Tuesday reduced his original jail term from four months to three.

Cliftonville Football Club striker Donnelly, who turned 24 on Wednesday, of Ardilea Drive in Belfast, admitted the charge in November at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.

It is understood the football club took action to terminate his contract on Wednesday.

An official announcement is expected on Thursday.

It is understood that Donnelly had been anticipating the club would move to sack him following the conclusion of its disciplinary process.

In June 2016, Donnelly took a photograph of himself having sex with a 16-year-old girl who was wearing a Cliftonville shirt with his name and number on the back.

He shared the image with a friend and with a number of fellow players on the messaging service WhatsApp.

It was later leaked on social media.

After the hearing Donnelly apologised to his victim.

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

He added: “It was accepted by the court today that since this incident occurred, three years ago, I had and continue to show genuine remorse for my action.

“I want to again apologise to the complainant in this case for the hurt that my action caused.

“This will never erase what happened, but I hope that today’s outcome provides her with a degree of closure that allows her to move on with her life.

“I also want to thank my girlfriend, my family and my friends for the support they have shown me throughout this case.

“This is something I wish to move on from following my sentence, and I ask that my family are allowed to move on also, and are given privacy to do so.”

After Donnelly was jailed on Tuesday, Cliftonville FC said it had “noted” the outcome of the appeal.

“The club’s management committee will now take cognisance of the final judgment, related matters, the input of relevant bodies and will follow the required club disciplinary procedures,” the club said in a statement.

“We wish to reiterate, as outlined in previous statements, that Cliftonville FC recognises the impact that this has had on the victim and her family.

“We condemn such actions without question.”

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