A Wexford Cup football match between North End United and Crossabeg played over three years ago has been replayed outside Circuit Court.
This resulted in an assault conviction against North End star defender Gary Delaney of Blackhall in Killurin this time.
The 28-year-old denied hitting opposing striker Conor Maddock (25), causing a broken jaw.
But a jury of six women and six men returned a majority verdict of guilty after three days of evidence and more than two hours of deliberation.
The match examined in the trial took place on February 17, 2019 at the North End ground, a short distance from the Belvedere Road courthouse.
The incident that resulted in the charges happened in the second half when the score was 1-1.
Play was halted by referee Michael Farrell when he noticed substitute striker Maddock lying on the ground near the North End penalty area.
The defendant and a Crossabeg attacker were both cautioned for clashing, but the referee was unsure what caused the damage to the man on the ground.
It was only later that allegations of punching arose.
Conor Maddock, aggrieved, was the first to appear on the witness stand.
The victim did not finish the game and he was brought to Wexford General by his father for treatment for a concussion.
It later emerged that he had also suffered jaw damage which required specialist treatment at St James’s Hospital in Dublin.
In the witness box, Maddock recalled that he was a student at DIT at the time and used to play for Crossabeg.
He explained how the cup game against a team from a higher league was a big game for his club.
He was engaged after the break and contested a 50/50 ball in an aerial duel with the accused.
His version of events was that Delaney won the lead but then put the baton in a headlock.
He felt that when he struggled to free himself from his opponent’s grip, the older man struck him on the right side of the jaw with his fist.
The immediate result was that he (Maddock) felt dizzy and his vision was blurry.
He fell to the ground and although he attempted to return to play after the treatment, he soon realized he was not fit to continue.
He was taken to hospital but returned to Dublin University the following day.
However, a day or two later, he again sought medical assistance as he was unable to chew his food.
He was referred to St James where an ‘undisplaced fracture’ of the jaw was diagnosed.
No surgery was required, but the patient’s mouth was closed for six weeks to allow the bone to heal.
The pain involved was described by the injured party as “excruciating”.
Conor Maddock’s version of events was challenged by defense barrister Dylan Redmond, himself a former Wexford Bohemians player.
The lawyer pointed out that A&E in Wexford had diagnosed amnesia and a doctor at Dublin Hospital noted that the patient could not recall details of the event which caused the injury.
However, a series of Crossabeg players whose memories could not have been obscured by amnesia were lined up to testify.
James Carley interrupted exam preparations to tell the jury how he was watching the action from the dugout after being substituted.
He testified that after Delaney and Maddock argued over a ball, the defendant struck the plaintiff with a clenched fist: “I saw Conor get punched.”
Eoin Kelly, a teacher, explained he was at right-back when he saw the accused connect with a punch in the face of the other man.
He said he was 100% sure he saw the punch.
Witness Jim Kelly said he did not attend the cup clash as a referee observer but as a Crossabeg supporter.
His nephew Eoin was playing.
He felt that the two protagonists were trying to hold back when Delaney turned around and punched Maddock in the face.
Left-back Mark Kavanagh explained he took the throw-in which led to the header contest between the two.
He didn’t see any punches as he watched the ball once it was cleared down the field.
However, he heard what he called a “thump” which prompted him to turn around and see Conor fall as Gary walked away.
He deduced that his teammate had received a card from his opponent and recounted how there had been a commotion on the ground following the attack.
Crossabeg coach Neil Garry said holding the reigning FAI Junior Cup holders to a 1-1 draw was a proud day for his club.
He described the impact as a “thud” and he too concluded that it was caused by a punch.
The injury led to a break in play which lasted at least six minutes and he recalled his injured striker having had his eyes closed for some time.
Referee Michael Farrell heard Crossabeg players complaining that the victim had been hit, but he could not confirm this as his eyes had followed the ball.
The matter was later investigated by Garda Mark Cullen who contacted 19 people linked to North End and 14 associated with Crossabeg AFC.
When called to the station for an interview, the defendant insisted that any injury was unintentional and that he had his eyes on the ball the whole time.
Throughout the trial, the defense argued that the jaw must have been damaged when the players jumped for the ball.
Evidence came from longtime North End manager John Godkin, as well as players Alan Rhodes, who works for an engineering company, and Declan Downes, inventory controller at McCauley’s Pharmacy.
None of the three witnessed a punch. Nor was he captured in action shots provided by photographer Rachel Berney to assist the trial.
When Gary Delaney was sworn in to testify in his own defense, he said he worked as a van driver.
Before addressing the events of February 2019, his lawyer told him about his record to date as a footballer.
It emerged that his first footballer, from the age of six to 14, was Crossabeg before being signed by Curracloe.
He made his way to Wexford Youths while still a teenager.
He racked up over 20 League of Ireland Premier League appearances with the Ferrycarrig club before winning the Premier League title with Waterford.
He then left the paid game in favor of North End.
His recollection of the cup match leading up to the trial was that it was played in a good spirit.
He insisted he had not touched Conor Maddock who he recognized as having both attended St Peter’s College.
He concluded that the injury must have been the result of the physical contest in the aerial contest for the ball which he, the larger of the two, won.
Cross-examined by attorney Sinead Gleeson, he said at least five times there was no punch.
The jury concluded otherwise, returning with their guilty verdict after discussing the matter for two and a half hours.
Judge James McCourt thanked them for their work before adjourning the case for sentencing at a later date.
He ordered probation and victim impact reports and postponed consideration of the case until June 15.