TWO Kerry footballers were convicted of assaulting a man and leaving him with facial injuries so severe his young children were afraid to approach him.
onan Buckley (22) and Christopher O’Donoghue (21) appeared before Killarney District Court on charges of assault causing harm.
The charges, brought contrary to Section 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Persons Act, were that the duo assaulted Dan McCarthy (40) causing him harm.
Both pleaded guilty to the charge and brought €5,000 to court in compensation for the victim.
The charges related to an incident at Church Lane in Killarney on October 22, 2018.
Mr McCarthy is a well known musician in the Kerry area.
Judge David Waters was told Mr McCarthy was walking home with a friend in his 50s that evening.
The two defendants were with a third individual – who was not before the court – and had gone for drinks after a Kerry GAA match.
The court was told that the defendant’s friend had engaged in some “tomfoolery” with the two older men as the two groups passed near a narrow laneway.
However, this escalated from verbal exchanges into a physical confrontation and the two footballers – who were both students at the time – subjected Mr McCarthy to a serious assault.
The third party who engaged in the behavious that triggered the incident then tried to break-up the confrontation.
The court was told the two older men had done nothing to provoke the younger group.
Defence solicitor Padraig O’Connell said Mr O’Donoghue accepted that he punched Mr McCarthy with his closed fist.
He said that Mr Buckley acknowledged that he acted in concert with his friend that evening.
Mr Buckley has an address at Lahard, Beaufort, Kerry and Mr O’Donoghue has an address at Foiladown, Clonkeen, Killarney, Co Cork.
Both men are emerging Kerry GAA talents having starred on various underage teams for the Kingdom.
Mr McCarthy told Judge Waters he wanted to address the court over what had happened to him.
In a victim impact statement, Mr McCarthy said his young daughters reaction to his facials injuries hurt more than the assault.
“My two girls would not come near me when they saw my face,” he said.
Mr McCarthy said they thought, because of his facial injuries, that he was a monster.
“That hurt me more than the blows the boys hit me.”
The court heard that Mr McCarthy’s nose and face were very swollen after the assault – and he faces surgery on the damage caused to his septum.
The victim has experienced problems with his nose since the attack.
He said he will never forget “the terror and helplessness” he felt as he was subjected to blow after blow that evening.
“It has changed my life,” he said and stressed he suffered embarrassment at the injuries sustained and flashbacks over what happened.
“I know they are well known footballers but I am somebody too. I didn’t ask for for this. I was just helping my friend. I am paying the price for that now.”
Mr O’Connell said his clients had brought €5,000 between them to court to offer in compensation to Mr McCarthy.
He said this sum was collected despite the fact both were students at the time.
Both men, he said, were deeply remorseful over what had happened and had co-operated fully with gardaí.
Neither had any previous convictions and Mr O’Connell pointed out that, because of their accomplished sporting involvement, they were “role models for some young people.”
He said what happened that evening was entirely out of character for two very responsible young men.
Judge Waters interjected to note that: “They certainly were not responsible men and they certainly were not role models on the night in question.”
Mr O’Connell asked that the court take a certain view of the matter and not record a conviction which he said could have serious future implications for both men.
However, Judge Waters asked to view the incident when he was informed it was caught on CCTV security cameras and witnessed by security staff at a nearby hotel.
Having watched it, Judge Waters said it was too serious an incident not to record a conviction.
“(There is) no open cheque book to buy your way out of a conviction,” he said.
Judge Waters said it was clear the two older men were entirely innocent and had done nothing to provoke what happened that night.
He said given the assault and the serious injuries caused for Mr McCarthy, he had to record a conviction.
Judge Waters also rejected a defence application to apply the Probation Act.
However, he said he would deal with the matter through the imposition of a fine given the remorse of the two defendants, their determined efforts to compensate the victim and their lack of any previous convictions.
The judge fined the two defendants €400 each but agreed to fix recognisance in case of an appeal.
Both footballers enjoyed stellar careers at underage GAA level.
The duo were stars of Kerry minor and then Kerry U-21 teams.
Both play with the East Kerry side that are chasing a hat-trick of Kerry titles this season.
Mr Buckley has been a member of the Kerry senior football panel for the past two years.
He emerged during the Covid-19 hit 2020 championship campaign when he starred against Cork for the Kingdom.