A grudge held for 25 years by a hurler over being denied a place in a North Cork final which led to him attacking a man last year was described by a judge as a moment of madness in an otherwise blemish-free life.
“I believe he will never be in court again, and he has suffered as a result of his mistake,” Judge Olann Kelleher said as he gave William Higgins, who is now 53, the benefit of a dismissal under the Probation of Offenders Act.
Higgins was convicted a month ago for of assaulting publican and former Kildorrery selector, Tom Walsh, and his wife, Noreen, after a drawn junior hurling final on Oct 21 last year at Páirc Uí Rinn.
Judge Kelleher described the assault on Ms Walsh as technical in nature, in that the defendant brushed past her when trying to get at her husband.
Defence solicitor Kieran O’Keefe said the defendant had put in writing his views on the matter at this stage. He accepted the decision of the judge to convict him of the assaults a month ago and was sorry for the incident.
Judge Kelleher said: “This was really quite bizarre, that a man would hold a grudge for 25 years against a man he believed was instrumental in him not playing in a county final. It was a moment of madness in an otherwise blemish-free life.”
During the trial in October, it emerged the injured party said he did not have anything to do with what Higgins blamed him for 25 years ago. Higgins was sent off in a match in 1988 and, as a result, faced a suspension that would put him out of contention for a final place.
Higgins testified at Cork District Court: “I was told by Tom Walsh in his pub that if I went to apologise to the ref I would be able to play in the final. When I went down, the ref knew nothing about it. I more or less hung myself by going down. We won the North Cork and I didn’t even get a medal for it.”
Ms Walsh said she and her husband were walking down the passage in front of the stand in Pairc Uí Rinn when Higgins shouldered her and punched her husband in the stomach, jaw, and neck and walked away. Mr Walsh said the incident was a factor in his decision to retire as a publican.
Higgins admitted assaulting Tom Walsh, but denied ever having any direct contact with Ms Walsh.
Higgins testified in the trial: “As I passed Mrs Walsh I shouldered Thomas Walsh. He said: ‘Hey, hey, you bollocks, come back you bollocks. [Another man] came between us. I hit Mr Walsh on the jaw knocking him backwards.”
Judge Kelleher said there was no logic to what the defendant did: Pleading not guilty to the assault on Thomas Walsh and then coming to court to testify that he did assault him.
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