Rugby player left blinded in the eye after being struck by stone

A rising young rugby star has been forced to quit the sport after being blinded in the eye with a stone in a late night attack.

Donegal’s Mel Harkin, aged 20, was a keen sportsman and played for City of Derry Rugby Club. But in June 2014, his world came crashing down when he was the victim of an unprovoked attack as he marked finishing his Leaving Certificate.

He had been chatting with people he knew at McClay’s Corner in Stranorlar at around 1.30am. When he turned to walk away, he was struck in the left eye by a stone.

The attack caused severe long-term damage and he can only see fingers in front of his left eye if they are held up very close to him.

CCTV was viewed and Michael Dowd, then aged 16, came forward with his mother and admitted his part in the attack.

He appeared at Letter-kenny Circuit Court after pleading guilty to a Section 4 assault and causing serious harm to Mel Harkin.

Dowd, now 18, admitted throwing a stone at another man but said it accidentally hit Mel. Dowd said he asked if Mel was OK and he said he was grand and left the scene.

However, the victim had to spend four days in Dublin’s Adelaide Hospital after catastrophic damage to his eye. He attended ophthalmologist Dr Martin Coyne who said Mel’s condition was irreversible and that he had only seen one other case like it in his 24 years in practice.

In a victim impact statement, Mel said he had been forced to quit sport and could not join the Defence Forces as had been his ambition.

Judge John O’Hagan said the accused man’s probation report did not read well and suggested there was a high likelihood of re-offending.

He sentenced Dowd, of Donegal Rd, Ballybofey, to two years but suspended the last year and ordered him to report to the probation services for that year.


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