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Friday 26 May 2017

Teenager sued soccer club over stress claim after being 'dropped'

Sean Cooke leaves court with his parents Sharon and Declan
Sean Cooke leaves court with his parents Sharon and Declan

A teenager who sued a soccer club amid claims he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after he was dropped as a 13-year-old has lost his case at Cork Circuit Court.

Sean Cooke (18), of Highfields, Ballea Road, Carrigaline, Co Cork, took action against Carrigaline United, claiming ill treatment by coaches.

Mr Cooke told Judge Sean O'Donnabhain that he was a good player who had aspirations to play in the UK.

However, he said he wasn't given the opportunity to display his skills to British talent scouts after he was allegedly dropped.

His father Declan brought an unsuccessful vote of no confidence against the Carrigaline coaches in the 2012-2013 season.

Complaining

Eleven parents of players voted and Mr Cooke lost by nine to two.

Coach Tim Mawe said everything possible was done to accommodate Sean at the club.

Mr Mawe took over as manager in 2011-2012. The club had previously been managed by Declan Cooke.

Mr Mawe said Sean played regularly in the "very successful" 2011-2012 season.

He said he received a lot of calls from parents who told him that Declan Cooke was giving out about the management and that there was "non-stop complaining" from him.

He conceded he was very hurt when Declan Cooke brought a vote of no confidence against him.

However, he rejected suggestions from the plaintiff's barrister that he took any bad feelings out on Sean.

"We were volunteers. We were doing a great job. It was hurtful. There was no appreciation. He [Sean] was the same as any player. We picked on merit," he said.

Mr Mawe said Sean sustained an injury in the summer of 2012 and missed a large portion of pre-season training.

When the season started, Sean had to come off the pitch in one match owing to injury.

Sean claimed that, before a match with Ballincollig, Mr Mawe pulled him aside and said he wasn't good enough to play.

Mr Mawe said if he could he would play every player in every match. "I didn't say, 'You are not good enough'. You are dealing with kids. You are trying to be positive. You would love to play them all," he said.

Mr Mawe said Sean's mother arrived at the match and, once she realised he wasn't playing, there was a "huge commotion".

The court heard Declan Cooke subsequently texted him telling him never to contact him or his family again.

Mr Mawe said that if he "had a superstar who was fully fit he would be in the team every week".

He told the judge that Sean was recovering from injury and they were easing him back into the team.

He said he couldn't understand the decision by the Cookes to have Sean leave the club.

Barrister for the plaintiff Matthew Maguire told the court that Sean didn't get the chance to play during a match against Ballincollig, which was attended by an Aston Villa scout.

Emotional

Mr Mawe said he wasn't aware of the scout being there. He said "Pope Francis could have been at the match" for all he had known.

The club denied it had failed to give Sean the opportunity to go to another club, instead saying it had wished him well.

Club representatives also rejected suggestions by Mr Maguire that Sean had been taunted by club officials when he subsequently played matches for another team.

The judge said it was an "emotional" and "difficult" case.

He said Declan Cooke was undoubtedly a "caring parent" but that he was not "over blessed with insight".

In dismissing the case, he said Mr Mawe appeared to be "conscientious and truthful".

A ruling on costs will be made at a later date.

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