Five-month jail term for assault at GAA match

A FOOTBALL player who assaulted the mentor of the opposing team at a football match was sentenced to five months in prison.

A FOOTBALL player who assaulted the mentor of the opposing team at a football match was sentenced to five months in prison.

The judge described the incident as ‘naked violence’ and ‘hooliganism’. Philip Roche, New Road, Moneenroe, Castlecomer was convicted of the assault at the GAA grounds, Grennan, Thomastown on June 1, 2009.

Ann Donnelly, a spectator at the match said that she witnessed a player being sent off. “A man was walking off and the Glenmore mentor was standing on the sideline. He walked over and boxed him in the face and hit him straight into the face. I heard a crack.

“It was like his whole face was smashed. It was horrible. I was down there with my two daughters who were training. I don’t support either team. The first half was absolutely brilliant. I don’t know why the gentleman was sent off. I saw (the match) from the red card onwards,” she said.

PJ Griffin, the victim of the assault said that on the date in question he was coaching and mentoring the Glenmore team. “I observed the referee gesturing a red card to the Railyard team and it appeared someone was sent off. I was on the sideline and I was looking at him. He went as though to head over to his own side. All of a sudden he was in front of me. It was like getting struck by a hammer. I lost a lot of blood through my nostrils. It was unprovoked,” he said.

‘Tensions high’

Mr Griffin said that ‘tensions were high in the game’. Prior to the assault there was a player on the ground. Mr Griffin told the court he was tending to the player and there was a couple of Railyard players and someone came over and struck him. Roche was subsequently sent off. “I assumed that he was going towards his own dugout. Next thing he was in my face. There was no justification for what Philip Roche did. He fractured my jaw in five places,” he said.

Garda Dave Mullet said that Roche alleged that Mr Griffin came towards him and in self defence he punched him. “He never denied the punch thrown but what happened in the lead up,” he said. Philip Roche said that there was a bit of an altercation between players from both sides ten minutes into the second half. “It was more pulling and dragging. The next thing I saw a man coming from the sideline with a flag. He came onto the field and hit my brother Noel in the back with the flag.. I shoved him over the line. The referee called me to one side and showed me a red card. I said why and he said for an attempted punch. I was walking to the sideline with me head down and he (the injured party) was walking towards me. I struck out one box. Next thing a supporter from Glenmore came and took me to the ground and started punching me. When I got up it was all over.

“There was nothing going on until he came onto the pitch. There was no reason for him to come onto the pitch. The boys were pulling jerseys. I was turning to walk off and the next thing he was facing me. I was after been sent off. He had no business coming near me,” he said.

Linesman Colum Hennessy said that he was on the same side of the pitch as the alleged incident. “I know PJ Griffin for ten or 15 years. A scuffle broke out and one of the Railyard players was sent off. The Railyard player was walking past and struck him as he passed. Mr Griffin said ‘you got what you deserved’ as he (Roche) was walking past,” he added.

Judge John Coughlan said that he attended GAA matches ‘almost every Sunday’. He described the incident as ‘naked violence and hooliganism’. “This is an unprovoked assault on the mentor of the other team. Luckily it is not as bad as it could have been,” he said before sentencing the defendant to five months in custody. The defendant was dealt with by the GAA separately and received a two-year ban which he has served. He was subsequently released on bail pending an appeal.