IT WAS, claimed Kerry footballer Declan Quill, a night which began with great disappointment on the pitch and finished with great expectation in the bedroom. On the night his team lost to Meath in the 2001 All-Ireland semi-finals, the Tralee player found himself in the bedroo
IT WAS, claimed Kerry footballer Declan Quill, a night which began with great disappointment on the pitch and finished with great expectation in the bedroom. On the night his team lost to Meath in the 2001 All-Ireland semi-finals, the Tralee player found himself in the bedroom of a chance acquaintance, kissing and hoping for more.
"If a girl approaches you in a nightclub and shows you to her room and gets into bed," he admitted, "that's enough indication for me anyway."
Last week, a Tralee Circuit Court jury backed the Kerryman's word against a complaint from his chance date that she was viciously assaulted and injured. A unanimous verdict cleared the 20-year-old footballer of assaulting Orlaith Cussen, 24, in her home, and left the court with a key strand of the evidence unexplained. Medical reports confirmed Ms Cussen suffered bruising and other injuries; now the reason for those injuries remains a mystery.
For both the footballer and Orlaith, a Killarney hotel duty manager, the night of September 2 began well enough. She had spotted him first in a bar when Mr Quill and 10 members of the Kerry team arrived after the match. Then, in a nightclub, she saw him again.
She was not from Kerry and did not recognise Mr Quill. Ms Cussen merely thought he seemed "cute".
"He seemed like a really nice guy," she told the court.
They talked and "got on really well". They kissed and held hands, and at the end of the evening, Declan Quill walked Orlaith home. When he said he had nowhere to stay the night, she suggested he could sleep on the sofa in her shared house. But once inside, they found others were already in the sitting room, so Orlaith said he could share her bed. There would be "no funny business", she insisted.
Declan Quill described how Orlaith put on red fleecy pyjamas and they got into bed.
"I was rubbing her thigh and her leg and that," he said. "Ms Cussen said she wasn't that kind of girl. I said that's fine. We were kissing. I tried rubbing her leg again."
Again, Declan said, he was rebuffed, and they both fell asleep in the single bed. There, however, the stories dramatically diverged.
The footballer insisted he woke to find himself being ordered from the house. Orlaith, meanwhile, spoke of a violent assault. She woke up, she said, to find Mr Quill pulling at her pyjamas trousers. He swore at her, she claimed.
"I thought he was going to try and rape me," she said.
According to Ms Cussen, she was slapped across the face several times and thrown against a cupboard. She suffered bruising to her eye, ear, stomach and pelvis and a front tooth was loose.
Another occupant of the shared house told the court she was woken by a commotion coming from Orlaith's room, which was directly above her. It was "as if someone was being banged from wall to wall," she said.
Throughout the court case, Declan Quill insisted there was no attack and no sexual assault. It was a case "riddled with inconsistencies", said the footballer's lawyer, John O'Sullivan.
"You would expect this to be either about attempted rape or sexual assault," said Mr O'Sullivan. "But where's the charge? One was never brought forward."
The lawyer added that the case was, at its core, a "swearing match, depending on one man's word against another".