A farming chief has condemned an unprovoked attack on a farmer in north Dublin as "disgraceful and very worrying" and called for a greater garda presence in rural areas.
Patrick Walsh (47) was kicked unconscious when he came across four men trespassing on his land at Lispopple, Swords, Co Dublin, on September 2.
The father of three young children suffered four cracked ribs, a dislocated shoulder and needed stitches to his face after he was kicked repeatedly on the ground.
Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) deputy president Richard Kennedy said Mr Walsh could have been seriously injured or killed.
"The hunting of hares is illegal and gangs with their dogs are trespassing on farmlands across the country, and when approached by farmers and landowners are met with hostility and in some cases violence," he said.
"They worry livestock, damage fences and leave gates open and animals distressed.
"This is the third such serious attack in the past year in north Dublin."
He revealed that last month a farmer in St Margaret's who discovered men illegally dumping on his land went to ring gardai, but was run over by the intruders' van.
Luckily, he was found by a neighbour but he had to spend a period of time in hospital with two broken legs and a broken collarbone.
Some months earlier in the same area, another farmer was also assaulted and threatened at knifepoint when he approached men with dogs on his land.
"The IFA has been proactive in the fight against rural crime and is calling for greater garda presence in the troubled areas of north Co Dublin and across all rural communities," Mr Kennedy added.
"Lurching or hare coursing by various groups must be targeted by gardai in a unified approach across all divisions."
Mr Walsh was watching TV with his wife and children, aged two, four and six, when he spotted two men with lurchers walking through his herd of suckler cows along with another two men close by.
He got into his SUV and went after them but was attacked when confronting them over trespassing, receiving numerous kicks to his head and body.
Mr Walsh said: "When I woke up 15 minutes later, I didn't know where I was and then a neighbour arrived on the scene and I was taken to Connolly Hospital, where a doctor told me I was lucky my injuries were not more serious."
Three of his attackers were aged in their 20s and the fourth in his late 30s or early 40s.
Mr Walsh said the gang was running a campaign of intimidation throughout north Co Dublin and many farmers were too frightened to report the threats to gardai.
Officers say several crime gangs are involved and confirmed that they are investigating all incidents.
The IFA plans to call a public meeting in Fingal in the coming days in a bid to stop what it calls "lawless actions".