Two well-known footballers in Kerry have been convicted of a violent assault that occurred during a night out in Killarney.
The pair had played a match that day and had been drinking, Killarney district court heard.
Blow after blow had rained down on a 40-year-old man, the court was told. The man had helped an older friend who had had food knocked out of his hands in the "tomfoolery" which led to the violent incident.
The victim and those with him were “in no way to blame”, Judge David Waters said, refusing to apply the Probation Act after viewing CCTV footage to get a clearer picture of what took place in a laneway alongside the Ross Hotel.
Ronan Buckley, 23, of Lahard, Beaufort, Killarney, a Kerry senior footballer, and Christopher O'Donoghue, 22, of Inch, Clonkeen, Killarney, an East Kerry footballer, entered guilty pleas to the Section 3 charge under the Non-fatal Offences Against the State Act at yesterday's court in Killarney.
They admitted assaulting Dan McCarthy, a father of two, a tradesman and musician, causing him harm, at Church Lane, Killarney, on October 22, 2018.
Inspector Gearóid Thompson outlined how the injured party had been socialising in the company of friends and had been walking down the lane when they encountered three males.
“Tomfoolery” by the third man, who was not before the court and who had been dealt with separately, had started the incident. He tried to break up the violence by the other two but to no avail, Insp Thompson said.
Mr McCarthy received punches to the face and a verbal attack, which was witnessed by the night porter in the Ross Hotel, and there was also CCTV footage, the inspector outlined.
A medical report was handed into court and Judge David Waters said he would accept jurisdiction.
In his victim impact statement, which he delivered himself, Mr McCarthy said he had been subjected to “blow after blow” on his face after merely trying to help an elderly friend. He still remembered “the look of emptiness in their eyes” and was still haunted by that night and was still suffering.
His young daughters would not come near him when they saw his face.
“They could hardly recognise me and called me a monster because of my broken nose, a big, burst fat lip and swelling on my face. That hurt me more than the blows that were inflicted upon me,” he said.
He suffers ongoing problems as his nose is always running and he is now facing “a very painful operation”.
He had had to miss days off work, which caused a financial burden as he is self-employed.
“All this has added to extra stress on my life,” Mr McCarthy said.
All he did was help an elderly friend, he said.
“There were times that I even wished I did not help my elderly friend but then that’s not me,” he said. He was brought up to help when he saw someone in trouble or struggling.
“That is what I did and I am paying the price for it now,” he said.
Mr McCarthy, from Killarney, also told of feeling under pressure because his aggressors were well-known footballers.
“Every time I’m out, I get taunted. People would say sly remarks or comment about ruining the three men’s lives and how could I live with myself doing so.
“I know they are well-known footballers, but I’m someone too. I’m someone’s son, brother, father and I so desperately want my life back,” he said.
In his plea for mitigation, solicitor Padraig O’Connell said his clients had no previous convictions and were role models for young people and responsible young men who had owned up to what they had done on the night and co-operated fully.
They were masters degree students.
They had been playing a football match on the day and had consumed alcohol, the solicitor said.
Mr O’Connell also urged the judge to consider they had come into court with a considerable sum of money – €5,000 between them.
“It doesn’t matter who they are. If it is appropriate, they will get a conviction, they will get a sentence,” the judge said.
Compensation was a mitigation, but there was no question of them buying their way out.
They were certainly not responsible and certainly not role models on the night in question, the judge also said.
Judge Waters asked to view the CCTV evidence and was shown it on a laptop on his bench. It took several minutes to view.
Resuming his address after the judge finished watching the incident, Mr O’Connell said his clients should not be punished either just because they were GAA figures. They had their lives in front of them.
“Mr Buckley is teaching in Celbridge and in Tarbert. His teaching career is in jeopardy. Any conviction will stay with them,” the solicitor said.
The two young men had not come to notice since and had learned a salutary lesson, he said.
Judge Waters said: “These two chose to behave as they did on the night. I viewed violence by these two individuals on what was quite clearly two innocent individuals on their way home.”
It would not be appropriate to leave them without a conviction, the judge said. Mr O’Connell asked for the Probation Act to be applied, which would leave them without a conviction. However, the judge refused.
He convicted both men, fined them €400 with one day to pay and fixed recognisances in the event of an appeal.