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Dublin: 18 °C Monday 18 June, 2018

'From some of the cells, they could see the Dalymount floodlights. It'd nearly break your heart'

League of Ireland club Bohemians has expanded its relationship with the nearby Mountyjoy Prison.

A GROUP OF former inmates from Mountjoy Prison will next week represent Ireland at an international seven-a-side football tournament for reformed prisoners, as part of a partnership with Bohemians.

Towers_9892 The annual Conway Cup match took place in the Mountjoy training yard last week. Source: Stephen Burke/Bohemian FC

The Bohemian Foundation has expanded its long-standing relationship with the north Dublin prison and will lead the Irish representation at the tournament in Netherlands.

League of Ireland club Bohs has been conducting regular training sessions with prisoners in Mountjoy since 2012, with first-team players Shane Supple and Oscar Brennan volunteering their time as part of the partnership this season.

Thomas Hynes, Community Director at Bohemians and co-founder of the Bohemian Foundation, explained how the relationship started.

“I was working with the Simon Community with St Pat’s (Institution for young offenders, which has since been amalgamated into the Mountjoy Prison Complex) in the area of alcohol and drug rehabilitation,” Hynes said.

“They found out I was involved with Bohemians and asked if the club could help out with bringing in players.

“I said we would see what we could do and over the last five years, it’s grown and grown. We’re in twice a week now.

“Through sport, they’re all on first-name terms, enjoying each other’s company. They can’t wait for Tuesdays and Thursdays to come.

“It relieves a lot of tension around the place and it helps show them there’s light of the end of the tunnel for them when they get out.

“We don’t just play football in the prison and leave it at that. We try to get them involved in local football when they are released – playing and coaching.

“The team that’s representing the Foundation and Ireland at next week’s competition are all people we’ve worked with over the past five years.

Thomas_officers_Donncha_9695 Thomas Hynes (Community Director, Bohemian FC), Donnacha Walsh (Deputy Governor of Mounjoy Prison) and the Lord Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha. Source: Stephen Burke/Bohemian FC

“We have nine guys travelling with us to the Netherlands – prisoners who have been released and who have not re-offended for a minimum of two years.”

Donnacha Walsh, deputy governor of Mountjoy Prison, said the programme has had a hugely positive effect on the prisoners.

“Lads have left here and taken up playing football when they leave and have reintegrated into the community,” he added.

“Most importantly, they haven’t returned here. Anybody who doesn’t return to Mountjoy is a job well done.”

Last Saturday, the prisoners and the Bohemian Foundation went head-to-head in the now annual Conway Cup game in the Mountjoy training ground.

The prisoners also get the chance to play under the lights at the nearby Dalymount Park as part of the relationship with Bohemians.

Hynes continues:  ”At the end of Bohs’ season, we bring up about 15 prisoners who are on day-release to play a football game against a Foundation team for the Foundation Cup, which has been sponsored by Denis Cruise, who also sponsored the medals on Saturday.

“We play at 5 o’clock so they get to play under the floodlights.

“How that came about was because when I used to come into the prison first, the lads would say to me ‘that sounded like a great match on Friday’ and I couldn’t understand how they knew.

ShaneSupple_directs_9489 Bohs players Oscar Brennan and Shane Supple. Source: Stephen Burke/Bohemian FC

“But from some of the cells, they could see the floodlights on from Dalymount and hear the roar of the crowd.

“It’d nearly break your heart. So I thought we had to do something, so when some of these guys were on day release I said ‘would you like to come up to Dalymount?’

“Through the Prison Service and through Governor Walsh, we organise for the day-release of 15 prisoners, under escort, up to Dalymount.

“Their families aren’t even told when we’re having it. It’s fully behind closed doors but we get a Foundation team out to play them and hopefully give them something to aspire to.”

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Ryan Bailey

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