Malachy McNulty (39) forged signatures on school cheques and used an official credit card to channel money into his own account over three-years.
He admitted to the thefts when confronted by a member of the school’s Board of Management who had been told of his frequent visits to the bookies during working hours and reviewed the accounts.
It emerged he had forged a co-signatory's name on 48 cheques and on documents to transfer money from four school accounts into one to which he had access between 2017 and 2019.
Portlaoise Circuit Court heard how McNulty had resigned his post but found other employment and has since paid back €50,600 in two years.
The thefts were described by his defence counsel as ‘chaotic’ ranging from €20 to low four-figure sums committed by a man in psychological turmoil and collapse.
The indictment against him included 380 charges.
Tragically, it emerged during the hearing how previously one of McNulty’s brothers whom he had tried to help developed a compulsive gambling habit and took his own life in 2010.
Letters of reference in court included one from the club secretary at Rhode GAA which said McNulty had always been upfront about the case before being appointed to the position of coach.
Judge Keenan Johnson said he would have to consider sentencing but that paying the school back had to be a priority.
Describing the amount stolen as “just staggering” Judge Johnson said it was “frightening” someone could find themselves in “a sea of debt” as a result of gambling addiction.
He said McNulty had a gambling addiction which had destroyed his career.
The Board member at St Francis School in Portlaoise, Fr Paddy Byrne, told gardaí that McNulty immediately confessed to the thefts to feed his gambling habit.
He subsequently sought treatment at a psychiatric hospital before being admitted to a residential course at the Rutland Centre in Dublin
A garda witness said all the money went on gambling and “nothing else” with cash going out of his bank account as quick as it went in.
The detective added McNulty made full and frank admissions and was very remorseful.
His defence counsel told the court that he wants to pay back the full amount whether or not he is sentenced to time in prison.
He added McNulty is already halfway there and “one way or another the account will settled by the end of the year.”
He was remanded on bail to appear in court again next month
As a player, McNulty enjoyed a top-class club career where he as part of Portlaoise squads that won every Laois senior football championship from 2007 to 2014.
As manager of Portlaoise they won three titles from 2015 to 2018 before takign over at Rhode where they won the Offaly championship in 2020.