GARDAI fear that the savage killing of Gerard Delaney, 51, in a bitter feud between two Cork families could escalate and spread to Limerick and Dublin.
Mr Delaney -- a married father of two and grandfather -- died after a horrific beating during a running street brawl on St Stephen's night outside the Manhattan pub on Lower Friar's Walk in Ballyphehane on Cork's southside.
Fears of further violent attacks have now prompted gardai to dramatically increase security patrols throughout Ballyphehane, Mahon and Togher -- with armed members of the Regional Support Unit (RSU) ready to assist uniformed officers.
The incident represents a dramatic escalation to a long-running, bitter feud between two extended families on Cork's southside.
On St Stephen's night, the Mahon-based construction worker had intended spending a quiet evening at home with his wife, Mary, minding their grandchildren.
However, he received a telephone call shortly after 11pm that several relatives were in difficulty in the Ballyphehane area.
Mr Delaney was not party to the ongoing feud between members of his family and another family, the Crinnions.
One Ballyphehane source told the Sunday Independent that Mr Delaney was seen as a calming influence and a potential peacemaker in the dispute.
Last February, his brother, Finbarr 'Finny' Delaney, 46, suffered a brutal attack outside his Ballyphehane home when he was assaulted with a machete and a slash-hook. He later made a full recovery.
Robert Crinnion, 26, was jailed last November for 10 years by Cork Circuit Criminal Court on a charge of assault causing harm arising from the incident.
Last Monday evening, a minor incident occurred between the two factions in Ballyphehane. It was this incident that Gerard Delaney was alerted to in the telephone call.
Worried about the safety of family members, he went to the Manhattan pub where it was believed some of those involved had gone.
Several of the people with Mr Delaney had armed themselves with baseball bats -- and the confrontation outside the pub immediately erupted into violence.
However, a large number of members of the other faction arrived at the scene and a street battle involving almost 30 people erupted on Lower Friar's Walk at 12.30am.
Mr Delaney became separated from his associates in the melee and was attacked by two men.
Gardai have now identified 10 people primarily involved in the street fight from CCTV security camera footage.
They are drawn from both factions and officers have also recovered a small arsenal of weapons including baseball bats, pick-axe handles and a knife.
Forensic tests are now being conducted to determine if the knife was the weapon used to fatally stab Mr Delaney.
However, gardai are still trying to identify the two young men primarily involved in the fatal assault on Mr Delaney.
The grandfather was stabbed a number of times and sustained a deep puncture wound to his back.
He collapsed onto the roadway and was then kicked in the face and body before being beaten over the head with a pick-axe handle or baseball bat.
Mr Delaney's friends eventually managed to drag him away from the scene and he was taken to a relative's house in Ballyphehane for safety.
His condition immediately deteriorated and he was then rushed by car to Cork University Hospital (CUH).
However, surgeons were unable to stabilise his condition and he was pronounced dead shortly after admission.
A post-mortem examination confirmed he died from stab injuries and blunt-force trauma to the head.
Mr Delaney's body is expected to be released to his family this weekend -- with his funeral set to be staged early next week.
His family has insisted he was not involved in any feud and described him as a hard-working man and a devoted father and grandfather.
The garda leading the operation, Supt Charlie Barry, and the lord mayor of Cork, Cllr Terry Shannon (FF), have both appealed for calm and for the public to support gardai in doing their job.
Over 60 gardai are now involved in the probe into Mr Delaney's death.
There is now a major fear that further violent attacks would escalate the feud to the point where friends and associates of both factions in Limerick and Dublin could be dragged in.