By Saurya Cherfi
A 34-YEAR-OLD inter-county footballer was cowardly and ferociously assaulted during a GAA match because he is a member of An Garda Síochána, a court has heard.
Garda James Masters told the High Court this week that in August 2010, he had been playing with his local team, Nemo Rangers, during a Co Cork football championship match when he was assaulted by a member of the opposite team, Valley Rovers.
Garda Masters, who is based in Bandon, Co Cork, said the match had been uneventful until a scuffle developed towards the final whistle. He had not wanted to get involved and had started to walk back to his full-forward position when he heard a noise from behind.
Bruce Antoniotti SC, counsel for Gda Masters, said his client had been turning to see what was happening when he suddenly received a ferocious punch in his face. He had been trying to get up when his assailant cowardly kicked him in the jaw while he was still lying on the ground.
Gda Masters, who played with the Cork senior inter-county team from 2005 until 2010, said that when he fell he saw that his assailant was wearing the Valley Rovers No 2 jersey. The court heard that the No 2, Noel O’Donovan, had called the garda a pig several times during the match.
‘I took it as being a slang word for a garda,’ Gda Masters said during a Garda Compensation hearing.
Mr Antoniotti, who appeared with barrister Kieran Binchy, said Gda Masters had blood pouring down his face after the assault and while he was being removed off the pitch by medical staff, O’Donovan smiled at him and made a handcuff gesture.
Mr Justice Bernard Barton heard that Gda Masters was taken to CUH, where a laceration to the left-side of his face was stitched.
The court was told that Gda Masters had a plate put in his jaw following an accidental collision with a player in 2007. Following the assault by O’Donovan, his jaw started to swell and he later had needed to have the plate removed.
Gda Masters said his wound had left a visible permanent scar on the left side of his face. He had suffered from anxiety and had to play as a substitute at the time.
The court heard that O’Donovan was later prosecuted in Cork District Court and fined €1,000. Garda Masters is now suing the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
Colm Smyth SC, counsel for the Minister, said the State was contesting Gda Masters’ claim for compensation on the basis that his injuries happened during a GAA match.
During cross-examination of Gda Masters by Mr Smyth, counsel informed the court that the State wished to call the match referee as a witness.
Following a brief adjournment, Mr Antoniotti said the case was one of ‘David versus Goliath’ because the State was relying on witness statements collected during a Garda investigation into the assault.
He said the DPP had refused to furnish the statements to Gda Masters’ legal team on the basis that they were privileged.
Judge Barton adjourned the case to allow parties to bring motions for discovery of documents.