Former Irish youth footballer jailed for ‘prolonged’ assault

Eric Donnelly chased acquaintance with dinner knife after drinking for up to five days

‘It was a prolonged attack for no reason,’ Judge Nolan said, handing down a 20-month sentence. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh

‘It was a prolonged attack for no reason,’ Judge Nolan said, handing down a 20-month sentence. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

A former Irish footballer who carried out a “prolonged” assault on an acquaintance and chased him with a dinner knife has been jailed for 20 months.

Eric Donnelly (21) had been drinking for up to five days in the wake of breaking up with his girlfriend when he went drinking with the victim, Ronan Collins, on August 15th, 2018, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

Donnelly, of Kill Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, pleaded guilty to one count of assault causing harm to Mr Collins and one count of producing a knife during a dispute at Grange apartments in Stillorgan. He has no previous convictions.

The pair had previously met at a party before they connected on Instagram and arranged to meet for drinks on the day in question. They drank in some bars with two women before going back to Mr Collins’ apartment.

But after the women left, the drinking session culminated in Donnelly suddenly getting aggressive with Mr Collins for no reason, Detective Garda Stephen Donegan told the court. “His demeanour changed and he became very aggressive.”

Donnelly picked up a dinner knife and held it to Mr Collins’ throat, before punching him repeatedly, breaking his nose. Mr Collins fled the apartment block and ran down the stairs, tripping and dislocating his knee.

As Mr Collins knocked on his neighbours’ doors looking for help, Donnelly pursued him with the knife and started punching him again in front of a witness. The pair struggled with the knife, both receiving severe hand lacerations in the process, the court heard.

Gardaí and an ambulance were called and Donnelly fled the scene.

He was identified by gardaí­ through CCTV footage from the apartment block and his Instagram account.

Assault

Sentencing Donnelly, Judge Martin Nolan said he could not consider a non-custodial sentence despite his lack of previous convictions, given the prolonged nature of the assault. He said he couldn’t imagine a more serious case of assault causing harm.

“It was a prolonged attack for no reason,” Judge Nolan said, handing down a 20-month sentence.

In a victim impact statement handed into court, Mr Collins said he had to undergo nose and knee surgery for his injuries and would require a further operation on his knee. He said he lived in constant pain and could no longer run or go mountain-biking. He underwent one year of physiotherapy for his injuries.

Defence barrister Seoirse O Dúnlaing BL said his client genuinely couldn’t remember what happened that night, but he co-operated fully with gardaí­ and agreed that what Mr Collins said transpired must be true.

He said his client had been a promising footballer who represented Ireland in the past. He was suffering from depression at the time of the attack and had gone on a drinking binge after breaking up with his long-term partner.

He told gardaí­ he was ashamed of his behaviour and that he had “acted like a scumbag”. He texted Mr Collins in the wake of the assault to apologise.

Some of Donnelly’s family members cried in court as the sentence was handed down.