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Match attack left footballer with permanent deafness

A GAA player has been left with permanent hearing loss following an assault by a PE teacher in an off-the-ball incident during a match.

Sean Killeen, of Mynish, Carna, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm on Darragh Varley in a match at Naomh Padraig GAA Club, Kilbeg, Clonbur, on August 21, 2021.

Garda Rebekah Nalty said it was during ‘a heated football match’ between Carna/Cashel and Clonbur, that Killeen struck Mr Varley into his ear while the players were awaiting a kickout ten minutes before the final whistle.

In a moving victim impact statement tendered to the court, Mr Varley said he had lost the hearing in his left ear after the ‘unprovoked strike’.

He had to revisit hospital on the night of his Leaving Certificate results as the pain in his ear was so severe. He also made the tough call to defer his college place as result of what happened.

He now found it very difficult to tolerate loud noises as a result of the ‘irreparable damage’.

“When exposed to loud noise I get an intense ringing in my left ear which I did not get before this altercation. My greatest concern continues to be what will happen if I damage my other ear – would this leave me almost completely deaf.”

He said GAA matches had evolved into ‘very physical and very tough’ contests and all players played at a very intense level.

“Injuries may happen,” he reflected. “All my years playing the game, the number one message has always been to ‘give respect, get respect’. Every player should have the basic mutual respect of one another.

“Up to this day on no occasion has any apology ever been made to me which would have helped me deal with the consequences of this strike.”

Defence solicitor Brendan O’Connor told Clifden District Court the defendant was a 35-year-old PE teacher in a local school who was captain of the team that day.

The married father of two small children had no history of being in trouble before the incident during the ‘local derby’.

“In the first instance, Mr Killeen wishes me to apologise for the incident. It was entirely out of character. It was one of several incidents that occurred over the course of the match, it’s something which happened in the heat of the match,” Mr O’Connor stated.

He handed in five character references, two from school principals, which showed his client went ‘above and beyond’ his duties to look after local children and provided a valuable service to the community.

Judge John King pointed out that an apology was only offered 18 months after the incident on the day of sentencing.

“He chose to enter a plan on January 26 but at all times he knew he was guilty,” he stated.

Mr O’Connor said the defendant had held his hands up and was willing to offer compensation of €3,000 as a token of his remorse.

“He accepts he was wrong,” he stressed.

Judge King asked Mr Varley if he was willing to take the money.

“I don’t know,” he replied. When Judge King said it would otherwise go to charity, the GAA player said he would take it.

Mr O’Connor said it was also open to the victim to take a claim for compensation under the GAA’s player injury insurance policy. This had to be lodged by August, within two years of the incident.

Judge King said the €3,000 should not form part of any civil court claim.

He said that, as the captain of the football team, Killeen should have led by example.

“As a teacher, he’s supposed to be giving a good example. An unprovoked attack on another player on a field of play is highly unacceptable,” he remarked.

He convicted and fined him €1,000 and accepted €3,000 as compensation.

Fixing recognizance in the event on an appeal at the request of Mr O’Connor, Judge King reminded the defence that penalties could be increased as well as decreased by the Circuit Court.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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