GAA player goes on trial for allegedly punching opponent in the face and damaging his teeth

GAA player goes on trial for allegedly punching opponent in the face and damaging his teeth

A Wicklow GAA club player has stood trial for allegedly punching an opponent in the face and damaging several of his teeth during a competitive league match five years ago.

Baltinglass GAA club player Billy Cullen (39) pleaded not guilty at a sitting of Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court on Tuesday to a charge of assault causing harm to Kevin Rogers, contrary to the Non-Fatal Offenses Against Crime Act. person from 1997.

Cullen, from Lathaleere, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, is accused of punching Rogers during a Division 1 league match between Baltinglass and Blessington at the Blessington GAA club grounds on June 9, 2019.

The court heard the defendant’s claims that the victim suffered injuries when he accidentally came into contact with the head of one of his own players after a group of players gathered around the defendant and Mr Rogers.

The alleged incident occurred during the second half of the match when Blessington was ahead in the game, which he ultimately won.

Rogers described how he went to attack Cullen when his opponent had possession of the ball near the Blessington goal.

The midfielder said he shouldered the accused, who then faked a punch.

Rogers admitted reacting by sticking his leg out, causing the Baltinglass player to stumble.

The witness said that his opponent, after getting up, threw the ball in his face and then punched him “straight in the mouth.”

“I held my mouth because I knew something wasn’t right,” Mr. Rogers said. “I knew serious damage had been done.”

He remembered that his gum guard split in the front and blood immediately came out of his mouth.

The witness said that after the referee showed Mr Cullen a red card, the defendant, whom he had known from their clubs playing against each other for many years, looked at him laughing and said: “Come on, you bloody king.” coward.”

Rogers said he tried to push his teeth back into the gum before attending an emergency dental clinic in Dublin.

At one point he thought the punch had “knocked six teeth into my throat.”

The court heard the player ultimately lost only one tooth, but also required two root canals, while another tooth began to darken and others were left “chipped and severely damaged.”

Rogers said there were “things going on” with his teeth.

CCTV footage shown at the trial captured part of the incident. It showed that the referee had called a foul involving other players, but the play continued during which the alleged assault took place.

Opening the case for the prosecution, PPD lawyer James Kelly BL said the defendant had no legal justification for assaulting his opponent.

Rogers said he had injury insurance as someone who played a contact sport, but what happened was “ten times that.”

Under cross-examination by defense counsel Damian Sheridan BL, the witness agreed that he was an experienced player who knew the rules of GAA football.

When asked about his attempt to stop Cullen in the game, Rogers said he had tried to use “a little hustle and bustle” with his shoulder.

He denied a suggestion by Mr Sheridan that he had raised his arm in an attempt to “clothesline” his opponent.

Mr. Rogers explained that he had raised his arm after Mr. Cullen punched him in the chest.

He also admitted tripping the defendant, which he accepted was foul play, but said it happens “probably ten times in a match.”

The witness also accepted that he was standing next to Mr Cullen after he fell to the ground, but stressed: “There was no intention to do anything.”

When asked at what point the defendant had the right to defend himself, Rogers responded: “Nothing was going to happen.”

Rogers acknowledged that he also “nudged” the other player when he got up from the ground to signal “police.”

He claimed what happened was “hustle and bustle” before adding: “It’s what you sign up for in the GAA.”

Rogers said there was always “a little bit of hustle and bustle” between the two teams, but “it never got to the level that (Mr. Cullen) got to.”

“The first attack was the attempted punch,” he stressed.

The court heard the defendant told gardaí when interviewed about the incident that he had the ball when he received a “closed, stiff-armed fist” from Mr Rogers before swinging his arm away from his opponent.

The defendant claimed Rogers then kicked him “around the shins” and then front-loaded him on the shoulder before “coming at me again.”

He said he kept his head down and tried to protect himself when a “general melee” broke out between players from both teams for about ten seconds.

In a previously prepared statement given to gardaí, Cullen maintained that Rogers obtained his injuries from an accidental blow to the back of the head from one of his own team’s players.

An injured Blessington player watching the game near the goal line, Wayne Callaghan, testified that he saw the defendant throw the ball at Mr. Rogers, who was “followed with a punch” as his teammate turned away. lap.

Callaghan described the blow as “very hard” before seeing Rogers clutch his mouth and bleed.

During the interrogation he admitted that later about five or six players had “pushed each other.”

In a written statement, dental surgeon Maria O’Brien said three of the victim’s teeth were loose and one of them partially dislodged from its socket, while the palate bone had been pushed back.

Garda Seamus Gray told the court Mr Rogers’ teeth were “cracked and loose” when he interviewed him at the Blessington GAA grounds on the day of the match.

He told Sheridan that he had contacted the president of the Baltinglass GAA club to ask if any of his players would make a statement, but “no one came forward”.

The trial before Judge Terence O’Sullivan and a jury of seven men and five women is expected to conclude on Wednesday.