Finbarr Lehane died in hospital a fortnight after being struck at the Stand Bar after midnight on October 24, 2016.
Jonathan O’Sullivan was arraigned in front of a jury yesterday on the single charge of unlawful killing. He replied that he was not guilty of manslaughter but guilty of assault.
Imelda Kelly, prosecution barrister, said it was the kind of case referred to as a one-punch case, where the State would say the punch was the cause or one of the important causes of death.
The deceased was described as a usually good-humoured man who would go from table to table talking to a lot of people in the course of a night out. He enjoyed music and was seen playing his mouth organ in the Stand Bar on the night of October 23, 2016.
O’Sullivan, from Kanturk, but now living at Birchfield Park, Goatstown, Dublin, said the deceased had been “talking Ramesh” into his ear at the counter of the bar.
“I decided to go out the back,” the accused said in interview with Detective Garda Anthony Daly. “I don’t know what happened. I just drew a punch. To ask me to go into finer detail I can’t.”
In a subsequent interview he said the deceased was “talking shite”.
“It is not like it was a row,” O’Sullivan said. “All it was was a punch, that was it. One punch to the face, that was it. I actually thought he was messing on the ground [not getting up].”
O’Sullivan said he played rugby and only ever got two yellow cards and they were for infringements.
“I did not go out to inflict damage on him,” he said. “I never intended to hurt him. I threw a bit of a punch at him.”
Publican Jeremiah O’Callaghan testified that he was present in the bar all of that Sunday.
The radio was on for patrons to follow the progress of Kiskeam in a county final and there was a soccer match on television. Mr O’Callaghan said Mr Lehane first came in that day at 4pm and went between the Stand and another bar where there was music.
Mr O’Callaghan said he saw the accused pointing at Mr Lehane and caught his hand or arm and told him to leave Mr Lehane alone.
Finbarr O’Riordan, an off-duty fireman, also told the accused: “Leave it go, Johnny.”
Liz Angland, who was working at the bar, said the deceased would go around to different tables chatting to people in the course of a night. She said the accused was with a table of GAA lads and that, at one stage, she saw two of them moving the defendant away from Mr Lehane.
Ms Angland said that while she did not think the defendant and Mr Lehane were arguing, she told her boss he should keep an eye on them. Mr O’Callaghan went out to calm the situation down. She said she did not see the punch but she heard the deceased hit the ground with an unmerciful crack.
Later in the night, when she went to clean the toilets, one of the cubicles was locked. Mr O’Callaghan opened the door and found O’Sullivan asleep on the toilet. When he was woken, he was disoriented.
Mr O’Riordan said the exchanges between the defendant and the deceased on the night were what he categorised as drink talk or Mickey Mouse talk.
Defence barrister Donal O’Sullivan said the single punch was a jab, not a big haymaker of a punch. The jury watched the moment on CCTV footage from the bar.
The trial continues today.