"Noel's death devastated our family, he was taken from us in such a cruel way. He died alone on the side of the road. I have lost my best friend and that attack has changed our lives utterly," Marie Keegan, wife of the late Noel Keegan told Longford Circuit Court yesterday, Tuesday, in her victim impact statement.
Mrs Keegan was speaking during the hearing of Martin McDonagh, 55 Mostrim Oaks, Ballymahon Road, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford who pleaded guilty to separate charges of assaulting Noel Keegan and Marie Keegan at Park Road, Longford on December 31 last.
Mr Keegan died in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Judge Michael White sentenced Mr McDonagh to a total of five years imprisonment.
In his evidence Sergeant Padraig Jones told the court that the attack on the Keegans was "unprovoked" and that Mr McDonagh had been on temporary release from Castlerea prison when the assault took place.
The sergeant also said that the defendant had been serving a two year sentence for assault causing harm at the time of the incident and that a four year sentence imposed on the defendant while he was incarcerated for had not been imposed on him at the time of his temporary release from prison.
The court also heard that Mr Keegan had a heart condition and received treatment in hospital just days before the incident last New Year's Eve. Sergeant Jones then said that Mr Keegan had been "struck twice" by the defendant and Mrs Keegan had been "struck once".
Dr Curtis who carried out the post mortem said that there was "no evidence of trauma" on Mr Keegan's body but highlighted that there were two small bruises under his lip.
The doctor also pointed out that Mr Keegan suffered from cornory disease and would therefore have been "predisposed to a heart attack or sudden death at any time".
In mitigation the defendant's barrister told the court that his client had a difficult upbringing and had become addicted to alcohol and drugs.
"My client is genuinely remorseful for what has happened," he said, adding that if the defendant had known that Mr Keegan had a heart condition he would "never have acted in such a manner".
In deliberating, Judge White said that Mr Keegan had died from heart disease and that he had been "predisposed to sudden death or collapse at any time".
"There is the unprovoked nature of these assaults which I need to consider," explained the judge adding that the defendant had punched Mr Keegan after he was warned that the Mr Keegan had a heart condition.
"There is also the matter of the four year sentence handed down to Mr McDonagh at Tullamore Circuit Court on April 4, 2009. He was sentenced to two years in prison on April 22, 2009 for assault causing harm and then a further conviction on April 28, 2009 where he received four years imprisonment.
"He was on temporary release, failed to return to prison and was therefore not in prison on the date of the assault on Mr and Mrs Keegan," said Judge White, who added that the defendant was unlawfully at large at the time of the incident.
Judge White sentenced Mr McDonagh to five years for the assault on Mr Keegan and three years for the assault on Mrs Keegan, both sentences are to run concurrently.