'Out of nowhere he smashed a glass in my face' - Dubs hopeful
A talented Dublin GAA player who suffered serious damage to his eye when he was glassed in an unprovoked attack, has said he will not give up on his dream of playing for his county again.
Aaron Duffy was just 19 when he was attacked by Stephen Howe at the Wrights Cafe Bar in Swords on December 23, 2017.
In that one moment his life was to change forever.
Howe, who was 22 when he attacked Aaron, was handed a three-year prison sentence on Thursday.
Aaron recalled the sequence of events that have left him with blurred vision in one eye.
"I had been out for a few Christmas drinks with some friends and I was in the queue for the toilet, and there was some other lads behind me.
"Someone had told a joke and the atmosphere was grand, there was no aggression or anything," he told the Herald.
"Then from nowhere one of them just smashed the glass in my face.
"I had no time to react, it was point-blank range, and I remember seeing the glass just exploding on my face. I knew I was in trouble when my eye kind of popped.
"The fluid from my eye spilled on to my T-shirt and my other eye was blurry. My first thought was that I was blind. My eye had prolapsed and emptied."
Aaron is unable to remember many other details.
His friend and another man helped him.
His dad was called and he was rushed to Beaumont and immediately transferred to the Mater Hospital.
"They said my eye was fully lacerated. I remember my dad was there, and my uncle, and my girlfriend at the time," he said.
Aaron underwent emergency surgery and was told that he could get infections.
"Recovery was long and difficult with other trips back to hospital. The treatment plan involved drops every two hours and constant checks. I was in huge pain," he added.
"I was wondering why the guy who attacked me hadn't been arrested yet. It was very frustrating.
"I was thinking, 'Why am I the one suffering all this while he is still out there free'. I was anxious they [gardai] would get the ball rolling."
Speaking of the effect the attack on his football, Aaron said he had been playing extremely well and had put years of practice and training in to get where he was.
"I had been playing very well at U20 under Dessie Farrell, and one of the managers said I was one of the best on the team. My aim was the senior team," he added.
"If the attack hadn't happened I could have been on some of those teams that went on to win five in a row. It's still a dream, and a goal I aim for. I just keep pushing forward.
"I've had to overcome blurred vision because of a scar on my cornea. When I started back after a year I was bumping in to players.
"But I've adapted, and I still have hopes," added Aaron, who is playing club football in Lusk.
"My father always taught me to work hard and carry myself with respect."
The effects on Aaron were not only physical. Sadly, his six-year relationship with his girlfriend ended and he was treated for depression.
"I was going to doctors, and I was going to Pieta House for sessions, and I lost my relationship. She was there every day and I have to give her credit for that. She helped bring me through it all. She was a rock for me," he said.
"There would have been a bit of paranoia for a while. The attack was in a random vicious situation, and now I'm more aware of my surroundings."
Aaron was also very thankful to the GAA.
"From club to county they've been great. I was even getting messages from lads I would have played against," he said.
"You could be at war with them on the pitch but when they heard what happened they were very supportive."
Howe, from Brookdale Road, Swords, was given a three-year and six month sentence, with the last six months suspended.
His has now lost his position with the British army.
Judge Elma Sheahan, at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, described his attack as a "gratuitous and mindless act of violence".