Europe

Paul McGrath ordered to coach children after guilty plea

Paul McGrath
Image caption Paul McGrath played for Aston Villa, Manchester United and the Republic of Ireland

Former Irish international footballer Paul McGrath, 53, has been ordered to coach children for a day after he pleaded guilty to public order offences.

McGrath was arrested by police near the Tullamore Court Hotel in County Offaly in the Republic of Ireland on 29 June.

He had been drunk and acting in a disturbed manner as he attempted to get into two parked cars.

Tullamore District Court heard McGrath did not recall his outburst.

The former Manchester United and Aston Villa defender had been at a family wedding and had been drinking all day Friday 28 June and into Saturday.

Defence counsel said McGrath sometimes turned to drink to cope with a debilitating disorder whereby he suffered acute anxiety during social occasions.

McGrath was extremely ashamed of himself and his public humiliation was all the more painful because of his fame, the lawyer said.

Judge Alan Mitchell said he was taking into consideration that McGrath was a "national hero", his forthright apology to the police, and an "impressive" letter from his doctor handed in to the court.

"I am aware you are a national hero and considered one of the greatest soccer players in Ireland," he said.

Dismiss charges

"Growing up myself I would have watched many of the games.

"But I was not a supporter of many of the clubs you played with myself - I was a Leeds United supporter.

"I'm also aware, as a hero, people looked up to you, and still look up to you."

The judge said if McGrath agreed to come back to the town and coach children of different age groups over a full day at Tullamore soccer club, and he stayed out of trouble, then he would dismiss the charges against him within six months.

McGrath replied: "Yeah, I'll do it. No problem."

Several fans queued to get autographs from the former football star before he was driven away from the court in a black BMW along with his agent.

McGrath has spoken openly about his problems with alcohol over the years.

He played for the Republic of Ireland 83 times and scored eight goals in a 12-year career, which included playing with the Irish squad in the European Championship in 1988 and the World Cups of 1990 and 1994.