Sunday 18 February 2018

GAA player avoids jail for breaking opponent’s jaw with a kick to the face

Conor Gallagher

A GAA player has been given a two-and-half year suspended sentence for kicking his opponent in the face and breaking his jaw after a hurling match.

After the final whistle, a row broke out between several of the players and Derek Sweetman (31) ran across the pitch and kicked Andrew Comerford in the jaw.

The victim narrowly avoided needing surgery but had his jaw wired and couldn’t eat solid food for six weeks. He lost a significant amount of weight as a result.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring noted Sweetman is also a youth hurling coach and wondered whether he trains children to kick their opponents in the face.

“I doubt it allows that in any of the GAA rules,” she said before commenting that coaches and senior players have an obligation to set a good example.

She said people allow their children to engage in sport for their own benefit and don’t expect them to come home with a wired jaw having been deliberately kicked by a fellow player.

Judge Ring noted Sweetman had “not been very sporting” and said she couldn’t overlook the gratuitous nature of the assault.

She suspended the sentence of two and half years on strict conditions.

Sweetman told his victim, who was also in court, that he regrets his actions: “All it takes is one ridiculous thing to cause so much harm.”

“All I can do is apologise and even that isn’t enough,” he added.

Sweetman, of Dingle Road, Cabra West, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm at Pearse Park, Crumlin on July 6, 2010.

The court heard there was a hurling match between Crumlin GAA Club and Naomh Fionnbarra which had “some flashpoints” but nothing serious. A brawl broke out at the final whistle and Mr Comerford fell on the ground while assisting a teammate.

Sweetman then ran across the field and kicked his opponent in the face, knocking him unconscious. The victim had taken his helmet off after the match ended.

An ambulance was called and Mr Comerford regained consciousness but decided not to go to hospital. He went to the emergency room later that day when he realised the extent of his injuries.

Sweetman was arrested and made no comment in interview. He has seven previous convictions, all for road traffic offences.

Defence counsel Seamus Clark BL said his client had €6,000 in court as a token of his remorse to the victim.

He accepted Sweetman had set a terrible example for younger hurlers but said that the consequences of his actions will also serve as a lesson to them.

Online Editors

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