GAA player says being a garda made him target for assault

A 34-year-old inter-county footballer was assaulted during a GAA match because he is a member of An Garda Síochána, a court has heard.
GAA player says being a garda made him target for assault

Garda James Masters told the High Court that in August 2010, he had been playing with his local team, Nemo Rangers, when he was assaulted by a member of the opposite team, Valley Rovers. Garda Masters, who is based in Bandon, Co Cork, said the match had been uneventful until a scuffle developed towards the final whistle. He had started to walk back to his full-forward position when he heard a noise from behind.

Bruce Antoniotti SC, counsel for Garda Masters, said his client had been turning to see what was happening when he suddenly received a ferocious punch in his face. He had been trying to get up when his assailant kicked him in the jaw while he was still lying on the ground.

Garda Masters, who played with the Cork senior inter-county team from 2005 until 2010, said his assailant, the Valley Rovers No 2 Noel O’Donovan, had called him a pig several times during the match. He told a Garda Compensation hearing: “I took it as being a slang word for a garda.”

Mr Antoniotti said while Garda Masters was being removed from the pitch, O’Donovan smiled at him and made a handcuff gesture. Mr Justice Bernard Barton heard that Garda Masters was taken to University Hospital, Cork, where a laceration to the left of his face was stitched.

The court was told that Garda Masters had a plate put in his jaw following an accidental collision with a player in 2007. Following the assault by O’Donovan his jaw started to swell and he later had needed to have the plate removed. Garda Masters said his wound had left a visible permanent scar on the left side of his face. He had suffered from anxiety.

Colm Smyth SC, counsel for the minister for public expenditure and reform who Garda Masters is suing, said the State was contesting Garda Masters’s claim for compensation on the basis that his injuries happened during a GAA match.

Mr Smyth said the State wished to call the match referee as a witness.

Mr Antoniotti said the case was one of “David versus Goliath” because the State was relying on witness statements collected during a Garda investigation into the assault. He said the DPP had refused to furnish the statements to Garda Masters’s legal team on the basis that they were privileged. Judge Barton adjourned the case to allow parties to bring motions for discovery of documents.

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