Northern Ireland news

Disgraced former Cliftonville striker Jay Donnelly free to resume Irish League career shortly after start of the 2019/20 season

Footballer Jay Donnelly arriving at Laganside Court in Belfast last week where a judge reduced his sentence for sharing an indecent image of a child from four months to three following an appeal. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

DISGRACED former Cliftonville striker Jay Donnelly has been suspended by Northern Ireland soccer governing body for bringing the game into disrepute.

The decision by the Irish Football Association comes after his club confirmed last week it had sacked Donnelly after he was jailed for distributing an indecent image of a child.

In a statement yesterday, the IFA said its disciplinary committee found the 24-year-old, from Ardilea Drive in north Belfast, had brought the game into disrepute.

"The Disciplinary Committee of the Irish FA has today charged Jay Donnelly with a breach of Article 17 of the Articles of Association (Bringing the game of Association Football into disrepute) and suspended him from all affiliated football until 1 September 2019," it said.

"Mr Donnelly has the right to challenge the charge and/or sanction."

It means he will be free to resume his career with an Irish League side shortly after the start of the 2019/20 season.

Although the player originally admitted to the charge in November last year, after which he was suspended by Cliftonville, both the club and association held off on making their final decisions on his future until after his appeal against his original four-month jail sentence was complete.

Last week, a judge reduced the sentence on appeal from four to three months in prison for sharing an indecent image of a 16-year-old girl.

Within days Cliftonville confirmed his contract had been terminated "with immediate effect, following the conclusion of our disciplinary proceedings."

Donnelly took the photograph of himself having sex with the girl who was wearing a club shirt with his name and number on the back in June 2016.

He shared the image with a friend and a WhatsApp group with 10 members, including some team-mates.

It was later leaked on social media. Donnelly admitted the charge of distributing the image at Belfast Magistrates Court on November 23.

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