A man who was involved in the kidnapping of Kilkenny All-Ireland hurling champion Adrian Ronan and his family has been jailed for eight years.

The court heard that Stephen Freeman's role was to pick up and transport the money after the raid.

However, he could not drive so a gambling associate taxi-driver was hired.

The case against Freeman was largely based on him admitting his role to this taxi-driver.

The 27-year-old, from Ballcurris Gardens in Ballymun, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to attempting to steal cash with others from Bank of Ireland, Parliament Street, Kilkenny, on 3 November 2009.

He also admitted using force on Adrian and Mary Ronan and their three children to frighten them. He has seven previous convictions at district court level.

Judge Desmond Hogan described it as a horrific crime and said a "tiger kidnapping carries universal criticism opprobrium".

A number of people were arrested for the raid but Freeman is the only one who has been prosecuted.

Prosecution counsel Patrick Treacy told the court at the last hearing that the raiders knew there would be a sizeable amount of cash in the bank after the Halloween Bank Holiday weekend.

He added that they chose to attack on a Tuesday as they knew Securicor vans would be collecting the money that day. 

The Ronans woke at 5am to find three masked and armed men in their bedroom.

One of the raiders brought the children downstairs and locked them in a bathroom with their mother. 

They bound Mr Ronan's hands with cable ties and told him: "You're going to do a job for us. We're taking your wife and you're going to get us three million."

They showed Mr Ronan, who worked in the finance and leasing sector of Bank of Ireland, photo print outs of houses of two bank colleagues.

One of the men informed Mr Ronan that they targeted him because he did not have a house alarm.

The raiders continued to threaten Mr Ronan and his wife, saying: "You do what we tell you and no harm will happen to you. You f*** up and she's dead."

They asked him: "Do you want your kids to be without a mother for Christmas?"

The men took Mrs Ronan to say goodbye to her husband and drove her to a disused weather station outside Kilkenny, where she was tied to a swivel chair and iron pillar.

A raider kept her captive like this for eight hours and fired a bullet from his gun into the ceiling during that time.

The armed raiders gave Mr Ronan a mobile phone and showed him a phone scanner to warn him off contacting gardaí.

Mr Ronan drove to work with his three children in the car. He put them in a separate room in the bank and was in tears when he told the manager about the raiders' demands.

He received a number of phone calls over the morning about getting money. One was from a gunman he recognised from the house and another from an unidentified male who sounded "cool and mature".

He expected a final call but it never came and a short time later gardaí rang him to say his wife had been located unharmed. She had managed to free herself and run out onto the road after her captor left.

Freeman admitted his role to the taxi driver when he was dropped back to Dublin after the raid.

Gardaí arrested and interviewed him 29 times over a week before he finally made admissions about being asked to do a job for criminals.

He said he was informed he would be dropping something from one place to another.

Feargal Kavanagh SC, defending, said at a previous hearing Freeman had run up large gambling debts and the raiders had exploited this and promised to have them written off if he helped them.

He regrets not having the moral courage to walk out the door and risk being shot himself, his barrister said.

His defence counsel asked the judge to remember that there is no evidence his client was ever in the Ronan's house or in the weather station. He described Freeman as a "cog in the wheel" and said that he is hugely remorseful and hugely regretful.

Mr Kavanagh submitted that Freeman has turned his life around since. He said he is in a new relationship and has a two-year-old child.

Counsel also asked the judge to give his client credit for his guilty plea.

He said a recent decision by the Supreme Court concerning Section 29 warrants would have made the prosecution much more difficult without a plea.

He said Freeman has represented Ireland playing pool and has participated in youth world championships.