Soccer player is critical after one-punch assault, court hears

Niall Grace (24) is in an induced coma after attack in Derry city centre, judge told

Institute FC soccer player Niall Grace (24). Photograph: YouTube

Institute FC soccer player Niall Grace (24). Photograph: YouTube


An Irish League soccer player is in an induced coma in hospital after being punched outside a bar in Derry in the early hours of Sunday, Derry Magistrate’s Court has heard.

Niall Grace (24) was struck once in the head just hours after he scored a hat-trick for Institute FC in their league game against the PSNI.

Matthew McDermott (22), from Cornshell Fields in Derry, appeared at the court charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Grace. He is also charged with possessing an ecstasy tablet.

A detective constable told the court that in the early hours of Sunday police received reports of an assault outside a bar in Waterloo Street.

Mr Grace was conscious and breathing and receiving treatment for a cut to the back of his head when police arrived, the court heard. There was blood coming from his nose and he was vomiting.

The police officer said Mr Grace was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital but his condition “quickly deteriorated” and he was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in a critical condition.

He underwent emergency surgery to stop swelling on his brain and reports from the hospital said his condition was critical but stable and he was in an induced coma, the court heard.


The defendant was captured by CCTV cameras and recognised by local bouncers. He was arrested a short distance from Waterloo Street.

The officer confirmed that the injured party had earlier been involved in an incident with the defendant and the defendant’s brother in a bar. He said CCTV footage from outside the bar showed the defendant acting in an aggressive manner towards the victim.

The police witness said he opposed the defendant being granted bail because of a fear that he would interfere with witnesses who have yet to be spoken to by the police.

“Also there is the potential that the defendant is at risk himself following the public reaction to the incident,” he told District Judge Peter King.

Defence barrister Nicola Coulter said the CCTV footage showed the defendant and the victim “coming towards each other and they both threw one single punch” at each other.

She said the serious injury to Mr Grace was caused by the fall rather than the punch.

Refusing bail, the judge said he hoped the defendant would not face more serious charges.