Man who bit ear off young GAA player walks free after paying €15k

December 7, 2021

A young Co Donegal man who bit part of the ear off of a promising GAA star has walked free from court after paying his victim €15,000.

Brandon McClay had been told he faced two years in prison if he did not pay the cash to his victim Philip McNern.

McClay pleaded guilty at Donegal Circuit Court to attacking Philip McNern at Sky Nightclub in Donegal Town during New year’s Eve celebrations in 2017.

Mr McNern had been acting as a peacemaker after an earlier scuffle but McClay mistakenly attacked him after he had been punched himself.

Surgeons battled to save the ear after it was recovered on the disco floor and put on ice but they failed.

Mr McNern, who played GAA with the Donegal minor team, suffered life-changing injuries and told in a victim-impact how his life had changed forever as a result of the attack. 

He said he continued to have flashbacks and could not sleep after he watched a doctor throw a piece of his ear in a bin at Sligo University Hospital because it could not be reattached.

He told how sport was his life, especially GAA, but had to wear a ‘scrummage-cap’ when playing and everyone looked at him.

He struggled wearing PPE when Covid came in and children pointed at him because of his disfigured ear.

“I kept thinking it was my fault and now I have to live with it for the rest of my life without the top of my ear. If I have children I’ll have to make up a story and tell them why I lost the top of my ear,” he said.

23-year-old McClay initially presented the sum of €3,700 to his victim, money he had saved from working in his father’s seafood business.

The court was told by McClay’s barrister, Mr Des Dockery, that an increased sum of €10,000 was now being offered which McClay, of The Mullans, Donegal Town, had received as a loan from his family.

Passing sentence Judge John Aylmer said Mr McNern was an entirely innocent victim who had suffered serious injuries.

However, he noted that the accused had suffered dizzy spells and had vomited after himself being punched in an earlier altercation.

He said he was remorseful and that he came to court having no previous convictions and hadn’t come to the attention of the Gardai since.

Judge Aylmer said he placed the attack in the upper mid-range of such offences and one which merited three years in prison but that he would reduce that to two years because of mitigating factors.

He said what he proposed to do was to adjourn the case for another 12 months under the condition that McClay pay his victim a further €5,000, a total of €15,000.

Judge Aylmer was told an additional €5,000 was given to Gardai meaning €15,000 will now be paid to the victim.

He agreed to suspend the two years sentence but ordered McClay to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for 12 months.