'completely shocked' | 

Brian O’Driscoll brands his former mentor, paedophile coach John McClean, a ‘total and utter fraud’

"How he must have impacted those young kids - 12 years of age - it is actually unthinkable as a parent to think of that."
Brian O’Driscoll Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Brian O’Driscoll Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IRELAND rugby star Brian O’Driscoll has said it was a disgrace that paedophile rugby coach John McClean was "protected” and moved to UCD, branding his former mentor “a total fraud”.

Former Terenure College teacher McClean was last week sentenced to eight years in prison for the sexual abuse of 23 students at the school from 1973 to 1990.

O'Driscoll had, before the allegations became public, spoken in glowing terms about his former coach's influence on his rugby career, describing him as the best coach he'd had.

Now he has spoken out against him and praised the bravery of McClean’s victims.

"I look back on any of my dealings with John and I think he's a total and utter fraud.

"I can't look back on the conversations I had and take it at face value, because of what went on in previous years."

Speaking tonight to Off The Ball, O’Driscoll said McClean was influential in the early years of his career. “He was the first person to move me from out-half to the centre," O'Driscoll said,

"A bit like everybody else over the course of the last 10 days particularly, as the levels have come to light of the abuse, I have been as shocked and appalled as everybody else how he managed to get away with it for so long.

"How he must have impacted those young kids - 12 years of age - it is actually unthinkable as a parent to think of that.

"From [the victims'] point of view, I would congratulate them on their incredible bravery in staying the course with this and finally getting some justice.”

He said that it has really shocked him.

"From my own point of view, what has upset me is the knowledge that every time I might have spoken about him in a positive manner, what that must have done to those poor victims, how that must have impacted them.

"How it must have been like a knife in the stomach to them, hearing someone speak so glowingly about someone who had such a negative impact on their lives.”

It emerged during the trial McClean had taken up a position in UCD, despite admitting sex assaults while at Terenure College.

Speaking about McClean's move to UCD in 1996, O'Driscoll said: "It is completely unacceptable.

"It is a disgrace that someone like him could be protected in moving between positions.

"Have we not learned anything from the past?

"Things being swept under the carpet, pretending they never happened. It is totally unacceptable and can never happen again.

"This is what these predators do; preying on the vulnerable again, identifying who they are. It is something that simply should not and cannot happen."

The former Ireland captain played under McClean at underage level, before the duo linked up at the UCD RFC Academy where the former teacher was director of rugby.

During the trial and in subsequent interviews, McClean's victims said his abuse was an open secret in south Dublin rugby circles.

O'Driscoll, however, said he did not know of the accusations until they became public knowledge in 2018.

"If I had suspected anything, I would never have spoken in a positive manner, like that time at Blackrock College (on BT Sport in 2017), or any other time," he said.

"I was completely shocked by this when it came to light a few years ago.

"Other people say that the dog in the street knew about it. I can honestly say that anyone in the rugby circles I was involved in never knew anything about it.

"I went for a walk in the park on Sunday and bumped into some ex-teammates from UCD and Leinster schools - we were all discussing it and everyone was equally shocked by the findings of it.

"There is no way that you wouldn't speak as teenagers about those kinds of rumours, there is no way you would go on summer tours if you had any concerns whatsoever.

“ It was just an absolute shock. I had him as a quiet, reclusive sort of person but then I suppose you don't always know the person behind the mask.

"We'll never know, with regard to the relationships he tried to foster, whether he was building a bridge between the victims and the allegations that would inevitably come out.”

He said McLean was “a person of substance in rugby circles,” and it was going to be more difficult to challenge someone that was held in high esteem.

"Those people (his victims) have lived with that burden and that secret for far too long.

"They've got some form of justice, but I don't think there's ultimately any justice in that.”

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