Friday 24 November 2017

Big match night ended with a fractured jaw and a court case

Being signed off with a leg injury saw Jeff Hendrick go on a night out that ended in court

No charge: Jeff Hendrick Photo: Collins Courts
No charge: Jeff Hendrick Photo: Collins Courts

Declan Brennan

During the trial last week of Premiership player and Irish midfielder Jeff Hendrick his barrister urged the jury to forget he was a footballer. At the same time, the senior counsel said, the only reason they were in court was because he was an international soccer player.

On the night of October 11, 2013 Germany beat the Irish team in an away game. Hendrick was out with a leg injury and watched the game in Dublin with friends before heading out to Krystal nightclub on Harcourt Street.

Elsewhere, football coach Darren McDermott was watching the game with friends in a pub. This group and Mr McDermott's friend Alan Kelly ended up in Krystal. Before the night was over Mr McDermott would be left with a triple fractured jaw and broken teeth. Four years later during the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court he said he held Mr Hendrick responsible.

He never claimed the footballer hit him and Mr Hendrick never faced any such charge. But Mr McDermott was unequivocal that Mr Hendrick started the row that spilled out onto Harcourt Street and ended with other men raining kicks on him.

Sean Gillane SC told the jury that Mr McDermott had an agenda to destroy Mr Hendrick's career. He pointed to a tweet sent months after the row: "I'm looking forward to ending your career."

Mr McDermott denied his motive was revenge. He said he was telling the truth and firmly believed Mr Hendrick was the aggressor.

Earlier that evening Mr McDermott met men in Mr Hendrick's group who he had coached as young players. Mr McDermott, a soccer coach from Kilmore West in Dublin but now living in Clarehall, knew Mr Hendrick as a footballer and used to play football with his cousin.

He said they were all chatting and laughing and Mr McDermott had a photo taken on his phone with Mr Hendrick and the others. But when his friend went to the bar, Mr Hendrick's demeanour changed. Mr McDermott said he wasn't happy with him being in their company.

Mr Hendrick's lawyer told Mr McDermott that he was making a nuisance and a menace of himself, getting "touchy feely" and putting his arms around people's necks. He said Mr McDermott was slagging off Mr Hendrick's team-mates, deriding their performance as sh**e.

Mr McDermott had no memory of this. Mr Gillane had already outlined the litany of booze that Mr McDermott had drank by this stage.

Whatever the cause, Mr Hendrick was repeatedly shouting at Mr McDermott to "f*** off" and "f*** off out of our group". Mr McDermott didn't leave and said he was trying to calm Mr Hendrick.

He claimed a number of the footballer's friends were holding him back. Bouncers stepped in and Mr Hendrick and some of his group were asked to leave.

Defence counsel dubbed all this shouting as "drunken handbags" by "men in drink". Mr Kelly said some of the men were shouting obscenities at Mr McDermott and pointing at him. In one of those quaint verbal flourishes typical of the legal profession, Mr Gillane said that "agricultural language" was being used by all sides.

But Mr McDermott said it was more than rough language and claimed the footballer had been waiting for him. He felt intimidated by the men shouting at him and asked bouncers if he could go back into the club. The door staff pointed him to the taxi rank. He walked in that direction while some of the men outside argued with the bouncers.

Mr McDermott got into a taxi and some of the men from Mr Hendrick's group chased after it. One of these was Hendrick's friend and co-accused Jonathan Doran (26), of Kilmore Close, also in Artane. These men surrounded the taxi at the lights. Mr McDermott said one of the men was Mr Hendrick. His lawyer said he wasn't fit to run or he would have been chasing Germans instead of drinking in Dublin.

Mr McDermott said the men were banging on the taxi and telling him to get out. He locked the door. The driver didn't want any hassle and unlocked the doors.

Mr McDermott said somebody pulled him from the taxi and he claimed that man was Mr Hendrick. He said the sportsman said: "I'll kill ya." Under cross-examination Mr Gillane put it to him that in a previous trial in a lower court he had only gone as far as to say that Mr Hendrick had "tried" to pull him out. Mr McDermott said he had always given an account that involved threatening him and seeking to give him "a hiding".

Once out of the taxi he said he was certain he was going to get assaulted and he sprinted off. He came to the end of a lane and ran into a crowd. He said he was being chased but didn't know who was chasing him.

He fell and curled himself into a ball as kicks rained down on him "smack after smack". He later had plates inserted into his jaw and spent a couple of days in hospital.

Doran admitted to gardai that he was involved in the chase up Montague Lane, saying he did it because he thought his friend Jeff had been hit. When Mr McDermott fell to the ground, he ended up sitting on him but denied punching or kicking Mr McDermott. Judge Martin Nolan said there was no evidence to support an assault charge and threw it out.

The jury then took 29 minutes to convict him of the charge of violent disorder, the same offence that they found Mr Hendrick was not guilty of. Mr Doran and Mr Hendrick walked out of court together on Friday but only Mr Doran must come back to be sentenced later this month.

Sunday Independent

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