A young man critically injured in a street attack has undergone surgery to his head and is fighting for his life in a Dublin hospital.
TJ Duffy (21), from Ardee, Co Louth, suffered serious head injuries when he was assaulted in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, shortly before 4am on Saturday.
The attack happened outside Paddy Power bookmakers, close to Fiddler's nightclub.
Sources said Mr Duffy was not a specific target.
"There seems to have been a row involving a number of young men and it is possible that the victim may have been trying to protect another man who was being attacked when he was struck," a source said.
It is not known whether Mr Duffy's injuries happened as a result of being struck or if he hit his head when he fell.
He was found lying on the road by a passer-by and gardai were called.
He received medical assistance at the scene before being taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.
He was then transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, which specialises in head injuries.
His condition was described last night as critical. He had to have surgery for what is believed to be a clot on his brain.
The prime suspect is a man in his 20s, who was possibly known to the victim or his wider circle of friends.
He is said to have fled the scene via an alleyway off the town's Main Street.
While no arrests had been made last night, sources have said gardai are following a specific line of inquiry.
Ardee Fine Gael councillor Dolores Minogue said the Duffy family are well-respected in the locality.
"People are shocked and there are different stories doing the rounds as to what happened and who may have been involved," she said.
"Nobody knows for certain, but our thoughts and prayers are with TJ and his family.
"We're all hoping he makes a speedy and full recovery."
Mr Duffy works in the Louth Arms pub in Tallanstown, Co Louth.
Staff there said they hoped he would recover.
"The customers are saying he's still in an induced coma following surgery," said one worker.
Mr Duffy, who has a twin, attended Ardee Community School and went on to study at Dundalk Institute of Technology.
Gardai are appealing for witnesses or anyone with information, particularly those who may have been in the vicinity of Main Street, Carrickmacross, between 3.30am and 4.15am on Saturday, and who may have a recording of the incident on their phone or dash camera, to contact them at Carrickmacross Garda Station on 042 9690190.