Coach avoids jail for punching teen in face in pitchside attack
A SOLICITOR and football mentor who punched a teenage player in an unprovoked pitchside assault has been given a three-month suspended jail sentence.
Conor Connelly (32), a former intercounty footballer, pleaded guilty to assaulting the 17-year-old. The incident happened during the Offaly senior county football league final between Edenderry and Ballycumber last July.
At Tullamore District Court yesterday, Judge Catherine Staines said violence could not be tolerated in sport.
The Edenderry player was trying to keep the ball in play when he brushed against Connelly, a Ballycumber mentor. As the boy's momentum brought him across the sideline, Connelly immediately struck the boy in the face, resulting in serious damage to his front teeth.
He is still receiving dental treatment for his injuries.
The teenager continued to play the match but later had to be substituted.
Inspector Kieran Keyes said the assault, which was caught on camera, was unprovoked.
He added that the teenager, who is doing his Leaving Cert this year, was making a good recovery.
Solicitor Donal Farrelly said Connelly was ashamed by a momentary lapse in concentration near the end of a very passionate match.
Mr Farrelly said Connelly immediately stepped down as a trainer in the aftermath of the incident and withdrew from the sport, putting an end to a fine career during which he played senior football with Roscommon.
He said Connelly didn't know the victim and his reaction to hit him had been instantaneous and had not been thought out. He said there was no prospect of Connelly reoffending and the victim and his family had "graciously" forgiven him.
He said his client had visited the boy and his family days after the incident and unreservedly apologised. His actions have left him with "a heavy heart" and great shame.
In December, Connelly, of Montpelier Court, Montpelier, Dublin, paid €11,000 compensation, including the boy's medical and legal costs.
Mr Farrelly asked the judge to consider leaving Connelly without a conviction as he had dealt with the issue promptly and fairly.
Judge Staines said the DPP had rightly persisted with the prosecution despite the boy's family wanting no criminal charge.
She said it was a very serious assault, aggravated by the fact that Mr Connelly was an adult and the victim a child.
In his favour were his lack of previous convictions, his immediate remorse and his prompt payment of compensation.
The three-month sentence she imposed for assault causing harm is to be suspended for two years.