Player avoids jail for ‘cowardly’ attack on pitch

A Limavady man has received a suspended jail sentence after he was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm during a football match.

Appearing at Limavady Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday was Eoghan Joseph Kelly, whose address was given as 49, Gorteen Crescent in the town.

The court heard a match was being played between Newtownbreda and a team from Belfast on December 12, 2013.

A corner was being taken and three players - including Kelly and the injured party - were on the half way line. The court heard the injured party was nudged at by the other player. His father shouted onto the pitch for it to stop. The injured party turned away and Kelly struck him from behind.

The injured party suffered a fracture to his jaw, but had played on for some 30-40 minutes. It was only later he noted pain and attended hospital.

A defence solicitor said 26-years-old Kelly was a joiner and of “good character”.

The solicitor also told the court there was no bad blood between the parties.

In sentencing, District Judge Liam McNally referred to the “cowardly nature of the attack from behind”.

Mr McNally warned “one punch can kill”, and noted that was the whole nature of the ‘One Punch’ campaign.

Judge McNally said those involved in combat on the football field enjoy a certain amout of physicality. However, said Judge McNally, they do not expect to get punched in the way the injured party did and end up with a fractured jaw.

Judge McNally sentenced Kelly to three months jail, suspended for two years.

Kelly was also ordered by Judge McNally to pay compensation in the sum of £500 to the injured party.