Teacher to be sentenced after Judge finds facts proven in GAA assault case

October 20, 2022

A Judge who asked to review video footage of a tackle in which a player was charged with assault after his opponent had his scrotum ripped in a tackle has said the facts have been proven.

Teacher Michael Friel was charged with assault causing harm to Laurence McMullan during a GAA game in Convoy on August 18, 2017.

Friel, a 25-year-old of Millview, Keshends, Newtowncunningham, was playing for Naomh Colmcille when he allegedly grabbed Mr McMullan, who was playing for St Mary’s, Convoy, by the testicles.

The video footage of the incident was played numerous times at a previous sitting of Letterkenny District Court.

Barrister for Friel, Mr Peter Nolan, instructed by solicitor Mr Frank Dorrian, applied for the case to be dismissed.

Mr Nolan claimed that Friel did not intentionally cause harm and that such instances were ‘part and parcel’ of the game.

However, Judge Éiteáin Cunningham, considered the case and then said that the accused did have a case to meet.

At a later sitting she asked for a longer period of time to review the case in full.

At Letterkenny District Court today Judge Cunningham said she was satisfied that grabbing an opponent by the testicles and causing a 7cm laceration was not ‘within the rules or culture’ of Gaelic football.

Previous evidence had heard how Mr McMullan received medical treatment at Letterkenny University Hospital for a laceration to his scrotum.

He told how he felt a sharp sting, but played on for the last six minutes of the game. At the end of the game, Mr McMullan realised he was bleeding and a medical report showed that he sustained a seven-centimetre laceration to his scrotum, which required eight stitches.

Friel previously acknowledged causing the injury but stressed that the incident was unintentional. The court heard that Friel sent Mr McMullan a text message to apologise the day after the game.

Mr Nolan had applied for the case to be struck out, saying that the State had failed to prove the level of proof required.

He said the best course of action was that the case be left for ‘civil remedy’ noting that civil proceedings in the case had been lodged in the High Court.

Inspector Paul McHugh said there was no attempt to tackle for the ball, which Mr McMullan had at chest level when the defendant made contact with the victim’s scrotum.

While ‘certain conduct is admissible and consented to’ and there is a ‘certain degree of assumed risk when partaking in contact sport’, Judge Cunningham said the incident fell outside of what Mr McMullan had ‘explicitly consented to’.

“While Mr Friel did not set out to cause the laceration, I am satisfied that it was a reckless tackle, causing harm,” Judge Cunningham said.

Judge Cunningham found the facts proven and sought a victim impact statement and a probation report.

Friel was remanded on continuing bail and the case was adjourned to February 6, 2023 when Judge Cunningham will pass sentence.