Thursday 24 May 2018

GAA footballer who left player with fractured eye socket gets suspended sentence

Declan Brennan

A GAA footballer who left another player with a fractured eye socket after punching him during a club game has being spared a prison term because of his previous good character.

Unemployed plasterer Keith Naylor (39) had just come on the field as a substitute for St. Finbarrs when he went up to Padraic O’Choncuir of Ballinteer St John’s and punched him in the side of the face.

Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Naylor to three years imprisonment but suspended the sentence on condition that he keep the peace for three years and hand over a sum of €5,000 to the victim within the next year.

The judge said that punches are sometimes thrown at sporting events and have no lasting consequences but that in this instance there were. He said the rule of law extends to football matches and that some players didn’t seem to realise this.

Judge Nolan noted that Naylor was otherwise a good person who had worked as a sports mentor to others. He told Naylor that his good record had saved him from prison.

Naylor of Dunmanus Road, Cabra, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the assault causing harm of Mr O’Choncuir at Marlay Park, Grange Road, Rathfarnham on August 17, 2011.

Detective Garda David Connolly told Garret Baker BL, prosecuting, that eye witnesses saw Naylor punch the victim in the side of the face just after the second man had taken a free kick.

The victim doubled over in pain and his nose started gushing blood. The court heard that the referee was watching the ball in the air and didn’t see the assault.

Mr O’Choncuir’s eye socket was broken and he had to have a titanium plate permanently inserted into his face. His nose had to be re-broken in two places.

The victim told gardai that the game had being a “feisty” one but always sporting and that the assault was unprovoked.

Father of one Naylor has two previous convictions, both from 1992. The judge said he could disregard these for the purposes of sentencing.

The chairman of St. Finbarrs GAA, Noel Paget, told defence counsel Sean Guerin BL that the assault was out of character for Naylor. He said the accused had played with the club for 25 years and managed some of the juvenile teams.

Mr Guerin said this was an unusual prosecution in that it arose out of a sporting encounter of which physical engagement is an essential part.

Judge Nolan said there is a line between competitive behaviour and criminal behaviour and that players must realise that they cannot attack other players outside the rules of the sport.

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