Former Derry GAA All-Ireland winner stole £572,000 from building firm

A 'terrible addiction to gambling' turned a former All-Ireland GAA medal winner into a thief who helped himself to over half a million pounds from one of Northern Ireland's best-known construction firms, a court has heard.

John (Johnny) Malachy McGurk was an All-Ireland winner with Derry in 1993
John (Johnny) Malachy McGurk was an All-Ireland winner with Derry in 1993

The former Co Derry GAA star, John (Johnny) Malachy McGurk from Drummuck Road near Maghera, pleaded guilty at Antrim Crown Court to the theft of £572,206 from quarry and Tarmac road firm, Patrick Bradley Ltd.

The 50-year-old company accountant also admitted 36 other charges involving fraud by abuse of his position of trust from July 2006 until the end of 2011.

Remanded on continuing bail until his sentencing next month, McGurk, who helped Co Derry’s 1993 team savour All-Ireland glory, left the court not wishing to comment.

Earlier, Judge Desmond Marrinan told McGurk he did not know him, and therefore it was important for him to co-operate fully with probation and explain fully how his offending came about because of a “terrible addiction to gambling”.

Judge Marrinan said McGurk had a previous good record, but unfortunately now had committed a very significant fraud and that he obviously stood the risk of a custodial sentence.

Defence lawyer Seamus McNeill had told the court that McGurk had been a prominent and leading GAA player, with a clear record, but that “his gambling addiction” led to his downfall.

Mr McNeill said in addition to pre-sentence reports from the probation service, the court would also be provided with a report from a top psychiatrist on how his life had changed.

Prosecutor Amanda Brady, who agreed that possible confiscation proceedings be adjourned for the present, said that they would be providing an impact statement from the Kilrea-based company on the financial impact McGurk’s offending has had.

McGurk, who also helped his local Lavey team lift the 1991 GAA All-Ireland club title, lodged the stolen monies, in the form of cheques drawn on company accounts, to his own Bank of Ireland savings account.

One of the charges relates to allegedly drawing £3,650 in 2011 from the firm’s coffers for a GAA legends charity golf event.