HURLING star Donal Og Cusack has broken his silence to confirm he wrote a character reference for convicted paedophile Tom Humphries, saying: "My intention was to help a human in a dark place".
Earlier this month, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard in shocking detail how the the former Irish Times journalist sent over 16,000 text messages to a teenage girl he groomed and sexually abused.
Humphries pleaded guilty earlier this year to six offences, dating from 2010 and 2011, including the sexual exploitation and defilement of a child. The court case earlier this month was for sentencing (later adjourned) - and the court heard from the young woman in victim impact statement, in which she said that she went through stages of feeling 'physically sick' and that she had lost her childhood.
The court also heard there were character letters of support for Humphries - one from a former sportswriter colleague, another from a prominent former GAA player.
The Sunday Times journalist David Walsh has confirmed that he is the sportswriter, and now Mr Cusack - a coach with Clare, and a former All Ireland winning goalkeeper with Cork - has confirmed that he is the GAA player.
"I am the sportsman referenced as having written a character reference in the Tom Humphries case," Mr Cusack wrote in a statement posted to Twitter.
"I absolutely condemn the crimes he has committed. I cannot begin to imagine the terrible suffering of the victim
"I apologise for any hurt or offence caused by my action. My intention was to help a human in a dark place who asked me for help
"I showed lack of judgement in this situation for which I am genuinely sorry. I will not be making any further comment and wish to let Justice take its course."
Mr Cusack has been approached a number of times in recent weeks for comments after it emerged that he wrote the letter, and Rape Crisis Networks Ireland has expressed concerns about the practice of submitting reference letters in such cases.
The court heard that there was a testimonial from a “well-known sportsman” in the GAA who detailed Humphries’ volunteer work in the GAA and expressed “shock and disappointment” at his offending.
The court had earlier heard contact started between Humphries and the girl after he obtained the girl’s number from a third party and sent her an unsolicited text offering her encouragement on her camogie playing.
He also texted her about personal issues she was going through at the time and encouraged her to keep playing GAA with her local club.
After a while, the messages became sexually explicit.
Mr Walsh has been on the receiving end of criticism for his character reference for Humphries - and for a 2012 Today FM interview with Matt Cooper during which he repeatedly called Humphries "a fine man".
Humphries pleaded guilty earlier this year to six offences, dating from 2010 and 2011, including the sexual exploitation and defilement of a child.
Quoted in the Sunday Times last Sunday, Walsh said: “The young girl whose trust Tom betrayed has suffered terribly from this crime. I wrote a personal character reference for Tom because we have been friends for 30 years and, despite the serious wrong he has done, I could not abandon him.”
Gardaí first began investigating Humphries, a former sports writer, in March 2011 and arrested him in September 2012.
He pleaded guilty last March to two counts of engaging in a sexual act with a girl under the age of 17 and four counts of sexually exploiting the same child.
Earlier this month, the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard how Humphries had picked the then 16-year-old girl up from her school and brought her to his apartment where he sexually abused her.
The first contact between the pair was initiated by a text message from Humphries when the victim was 14 years of age and correspondence between them continued for two years. The court heard that they exchanged 16,000 messages over a three-month period alone.
In her victim impact statement, she said that she went through stages of feeling 'physically sick' and that she had lost her childhood.
Humphries will be sentenced on October 24.