A former Catholic priest, who confessed to sexually assaulting two altar boys in the sacristy of a Co Cork church over 20 years ago, has been imprisoned for 12 months.

Patrick Crowley, 62, with an address at Cuan Mhuire, Athy, Co Kildare, admitted sexually assaulting one boy on six occasions and the second boy on three occasions on dates between September 1989 and June 1990.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court was told the abuse took place after morning mass.

One victim described what happened to him as his "dirty secret".

He said it changed him from a happy go-lucky, carefree boy, to a cagey, secretive one.

He recalled his gut-wrenching fear and anxiety and said he felt he was being preyed upon and actively hunted.

In his victim impact statement read to the court, he said he wrote to the Diocese of Cork & Ross in 1999 about the abuse.

However, it was almost a decade later before the letter was passed on to gardaí.

The second victim said he made a complaint to gardaí following the publication of the Murphy Report and on becoming a father himself.

Crowley apologised to his victims, saying it was a terrible betrayal of trust.

He said it was not until the clerical sex abuse scandal in recent times that he fully appreciated the long-term consequences of what he did.

Sentencing him to 12 months in prison, Judge Patrick Moran said the victims' innocence was greatly interfered with and it is fortunate that they have been able to move on with their lives.

The court was told that Crowley left his ministry in 1994 and was laicised in 2002.