GAA player cleared of match assault
A YOUNG footballer was cleared by a jury of assault at a GAA game in Co Meath. There was a burst of applause from a section of the attendance at Trim Circuit Court when the jury returned its verdict.
Darren Morgan (21), Elm Grove, Rockfield, Kells, pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm to Shane Ryan (19), Garristown, Co Meath, at Skryne GAA grounds, Skryne, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, on September 25th, 2009.
The court heard that Mr Morgan told Garda Shane Dooley that while trying to stop Mr Ryan from getting the football he had accidentally grabbed the player by the testicles and had not meant to hurt him.
“I grabbed him by the balls. I meant to grab his shorts or jersey. I didn’t mean to grab so hard,” he had said.
The defendant had been playing full back for Round Towers of Kells, while the complainant had been playing half-forward for St Vincent’s/Curraha in the semi-final of the minor county championship at the time.
Mr Ryan had told the court that early in the game the defendant had come through a scuffle of players, grabbed him and knocked him to the ground.
He added the defendant later made a groin-grabbing gesture to the player, who was marking him.
A short time later Mr Ryan scored a goal and following this he was assaulted by the defendant, the court heard. “He squared up to me as if he was going to headbutt me but instead he grabbed my testicles, squeezed and pulled. He laughed at me. I looked into my shorts and there was no scrotum there. I went down on my hunkers and he went back into his full back position,” Mr Ryan said. He added that he was screaming in pain and his shorts were covered in blood.
He said he was in such pain that he could not go down on the ground, and he left the pitch, adding that the referee would not stop the game as he was then off the field of play.
The court heard Mr Ryan was given first aid in the dressing room where he went into a panic attack before being taken by ambulance to Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, where his wound was stitched. He was released from hospital after a number of days.
Mr Ryan agreed with defence barrister Breffni Gordon SC that he was taking a civil action against the defendant and the GAA but denied he was doing it for money. “I’m doing it for justice,” he said.
Mr Morgan denied making gestures at Mr Ryan or attempting to headbutt him or sneering at him.
He said that when the game was over the players had been advised to take off their jerseys and hide their numbers, as the father of the injured player was going mad looking for whoever had injured his son.
He said he got afraid when the incident was highlighted in the media and discussed by the GAA County Board.
Asked by the defence barrister how the media got hold of the story, Garda Dooley said there were a lot of people at the match and they were talking about it but were not talking to the gardaí.
A number of witnesses who had attended the match said they had seen Mr Ryan in pain and distress on the pitch but had not seen how he had got injured.
Francis McNulty, who was co-manager of the St Vincent’s team at the time, said it had been a very free-flowing competitive match, with Round Towers in the lead until Mr Ryan’s goal levelled the sides.
“He was one of the best players,” said Mr McNulty.
After the conclusion of evidence, the jury of seven men and five women took two hours to return a verdict of not guilty, to a burst of applause from friends of Mr Morgan.
Mr Morgan, who had remained expressionless throughout the two-day hearing, smiled briefly when he was congratulated by his family and friends.
Neither Mr Morgan nor Mr Ryan would make any comment when they left the court.