A MAJOR garda investigation is underway after a top GAA player suffered horrific injuries after he was assaulted by a close associate of one of Ireland's most dangerous criminals.
The highly respected player, who is a father of one, is still recovering after the savage assault outside a takeaway in Wicklow town on the night of December 28 last.
Sources have revealed that gardai have studied CCTV of the incident which shows the gang boss's close associate kicking his victim "extremely hard" in the groin area.
The man was rushed to hospital after the incident and required surgery – it is understood that his injury may also affect his ability to play sports.
The victim, who is in his early 30s and from Wicklow town, has not made a complaint to gardai and there has been no arrests so far in the case.
"This was the result of a bit of slagging in a chipper that obviously went way too far – it has had very severe consequences for the injured party," a senior source explained.
The chief suspect in the case is a younger associate of one of the east coast's most feared crimelords – a volatile and dangerous gangster nicknamed the 'Business Man'.
The assault suspect does not have many previous convictions but has been on the garda radar because of his very close association with the 'Business Man'.
Sources say that detectives have been carrying out a number of surveillance operations against the criminal especially after receiving intelligence that he plans to 'whack' two Wicklow brothers who were involved in a serious pub assault on a veteran member of his gang.
The Wicklow-based criminal has a huge property portfolio and links to the Continuity IRA.
He is suspected of being involved in the gangland murder of Philip 'Philly' O'Toole (32), who was shot dead in January last year.
He has never been arrested in relation to that crime but sources say that gardai suspect that "he operated in the background" of the murder.
A file on the O' Toole murder has now been sent to the DPP with a Garda recommendation that one of the drug dealer's former close mates be charged with the killing.
Separately, the 'Business Man' is being investigated for a number of shootings and an abduction, with his sphere of influence stretching from Bray, Co Wicklow, down to Gorey, Co Wexford including the towns of Arklow and Wicklow.
He is also suspected of ordering the theft of 29 firearms in Wicklow in September, 2012.
"This is an individual who thrives on fear and intimidation – he generally stays in the background but his volatility means that he sometimes gets his hands dirty," a source said.
The Herald has also learnt that the 'Business Man' was involved in a savage assault in a south Dublin pub last year.