AN IRISH rugby player who plays for English first division team Nottingham has been spared a jail sentence that would have ended his sporting career.
Neilus Keogh (26) punched his 56-year-old victim, then threw a chair at him when he was unconscious, following a loss at cards, a court heard.
After being told that a custodial sentence would end Keogh's rugby career, a judge said that "we would all be losers if this man goes to prison".
Former Ireland U-20s international Keogh, who is originally from Limerick but now lives in the UK, was given 12 months to complete alcohol and anger management courses.
He is also required to return to the court in a year with an additional €10,000 to show "real remorse" to victim Michael Frisby.
Keogh, formerly of Milltown Hall, Mount St Annes, Milltown, Dublin, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm on Mr Frisby at Sporting Emporium, Anne's Lane, Dublin 2 on April 5, 2012. The court heard Mr Frisby was playing cards with eight other people in the Sporting Emporium casino. Keogh, whom he had never seen before, was sitting to his left.
Garda Jennifer Keyes said that when Keogh lost money in a hand he stood up, hit Mr Frisby in the face and then threw a chair on him.
Mr Frisby was taken to St James's Hospital where it was discovered that he had suffered three broken bones in his face and had damaged nerves around his mouth. An operation was required to insert two metal plates in his face.
In a victim-impact report read out in court, Mr Frisby said he had no chance to defend himself and was struck with a chair while lying unconscious on the floor.
Defence counsel Ronan Kennedy explained to the court that Keogh had a clause in his contract which would terminate if convicted of an indictable offence.
"If the court convicted him, it would effectively bring his rugby career to an end," Mr Kennedy said.
Judge Patrick McCartan said the assault on Mr Frisby was on the borderline between harm and serious harm and that Mr Frisby would have the metal plates for the rest of his life.
On the other side was the argument that Keogh's rugby career would come to an end if he received a custodial sentence. He said: "I don't think anybody's interest would be served by him going to prison."
The judge cited the cost to the taxpayer of jailing Keogh, and said Mr Frisby struck him as a man who wouldn't get satisfaction from seeing Keogh spend time behind bars.
He adjourned the case for a period of 12 months so Keogh could complete alcohol and anger-management courses.