Former Derry GAA star Johnny McGurk to be sentenced for theft of over £500,000

Johnny McGurk
Johnny McGurk

Former All-Ireland GAA medal winner John (Johnny) Malachy McGurk, will find out this week what sentence he will receive for helping himself to over half a million pounds from a well-known construction firm.

Antrim Crown Court heard that the former Co Derry GAA star, from Drummuck Road near Maghera, nearly brought the quarry and Tarmac road family run firm of Patrick Bradley Ltd, almost to the verge of bankruptcy.

In all the 50-year-old company accountant pleaded guilty to the theft of £572,206 from Bradley’s and 34 other charges involving fraud by abuse of his position of trust from July 2006 until the end of 2011.

Prosecution lawyer Amanda Brady also revealed that when McGurk, who’d helped Co Derry’s 1993 team savour All-Ireland glory, was uncovered, he tried to pay nearly £40,000 of their own monies back to the company.

Ms Brady said that one of the company directors initially told McGurk he and several others were to be questioned about certain financial irregularities, to which he replied: “Its me”, before offering to resign.

McGurk, who also helped his local Lavey team lift the 1991 GAA All-Ireland club title, said that he thought he had taken up to £50,000 but two days later in an email suggested that he no assets and that he may have taken over £157,000 to pay for his gambling.

When questioned by police he said he had been taking monies for about six or seven years, stating with small amounts but that it soon escalated.

McGurk also estimated that he had taken between £200 and £300,000, and “would be surprised if it were more”.

However, he finally accepted that he had taken over half a million pounds from the firm where he had been, said Ms Brady in a position of trust which he breached.

Other aggravating features included the substantial amount of money taken, and the substantial period over which this had occurred.

Defence lawyer Seamus McNeill described McGurk as a broken man who wished to publicly and humbly apologise to all for his disgraceful and outrageous behaviour, his breach of trust and the personal hurt, and the financial jeopardy he may have caused.

The apology came, said Mr McNeill, not from a ‘Johnny come lately’, but from a man, once revered, but whose life now lay in “utter ruins”.

“You have before you,” he added, “a broken man .... a man now burdened by shame and disgrace”.