Monday 24 June 2019

GAA star says he is 'lucky to be alive' after his skull was fractured in one punch assault

Laois inter-county player Daniel O'Reilly
Laois inter-county player Daniel O'Reilly

Eamon Dillon

AN inter-county footballer whose skull was fractured in a one-punch assault outside a chipper has warned of the dangers of unprovoked attacks.

Laois midfielder Daniel O’Reilly, who is due to play a championship match against Westmeath next weekend, read out a harrowing victim impact statement in court earlier this month.

Speaking to the Sunday World, he says he was lucky he hadn’t died or suffered permanent disability.

“If you lose your temper there’s no need to throw a punch. That should be last resort, not first resort,” he told us.

“It’s still tough to even talk about it, to think about. It can be very overwhelming, trying sort my memory of it. Doing the story is about making people aware of what can happen,” he told our reporter this week.

Brendan Keating, from St Mary’s Park, and Tommy Lee Thompson, from Springfield Park in Carlow, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm earlier this year. The two Carlow men had been due to be sentenced at a hearing this month for the nasty attack. The case has since been adjourned for sentencing until July 2.

Daniel had been out with his partner Jade Geoghegan and friends celebrating Laois’s win over Carlow in the Division 4 football final in April 2018.

Evidence was heard that the accused men had followed Daniel from a chipper, where there had been a brief altercation.

The two men and another man were caught on CCTV as Daniel was punched and fell to the ground.

His attackers high-fived each other as they walked back to the chipper, according to evidence heard in court.

Daniel’s victim impact statement was read at Carlow Circuit Court, in which he outlined the impact the attack has had on his life.

This week Daniel told the Sunday World how he woke in a hospital in terrible pain, confused and frightened for his son Zac, who was just nine months old.

“This was like someone was after getting inside my skull and was just chiselling away at it. It was hard to even open my eyes.

“When I woke up the first thought was where was Zac, was he okay? It was a bit frightening because I didn’t know what was happening.”

“The nurse had to tell me what happened. The nurse asked me if I knew why I was here. I realised after a few minutes I was in hospital. It dawned on me then how serious it was. I could have been dead or left paralysed or in a coma for a long time. It kind of frightened me to think what he would have done without me,” he admitted.

The entire incident was witnessed by his partner Jade.

“She witnessed the whole lot it. She’s still very shook to this day. She’s been through a tough time and helped me through a tough time. She been dragging two bodies through this,” Daniel said.

Now the GAA star says the law should reflect the serious consequences such sudden attacks can have on lives.

“I think there should be something different put into our laws about it. It seems to be more and more common,” he said.

“I worked in a pub there for a while and I used to drop people home. I’d see people a three o’clock outside the nightclub or takeaway beating each other.”

Daniel was left frustrated throughout the championship last summer as Laois reached the Leinster final.

“I missed out on the whole championship with Laois so I did. That was very tough to come to terms with,” he told us.

It was another nine months before Daniel could pull on a Laois jersey again, when he played for the county last November, and the GAA have been a big support for Daniel, as have his parents Paula and David.

“They were always there for me in Laois and my club Graiguecullen. They’ve done everything for me. There was always someone to talk to in the GAA family,” he added.

Sunday World

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