A former Dublin footballer accused of breaking another player’s jaw on the pitch told Gardaí he struck out in a “reflex action” after he had been hit in the testicles, a court has heard.
Brendan McManamon (30) has denied assault causing harm to Garda Enda Ledwith during a league match at Na Fianna GAA Club, St Mobhi Road, Glasnevin on March 31, 2012.
Mr McManamon of Cypress Downs, Templeogue, had been playing for St Judes while former Longford player Garda Ledwith (37) was with Na Fianna when the incident occurred during the final ten minutes of the match.
Garda Ledwith told the court that within a week of the incident, footage of it was shown to him at his home and his wife found it ‘quite traumatic’.
Defence counsel Breffni Gordon BL told the jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that Mr McManamon accepts that he punched Garda Ledwith once.
He said Mr McManamon told gardaí in a statement that he struck out “in defence” but that he couldn’t say exactly where he had hit Mr Ledwith.
Mr Gordon then read an extract from his client’s garda statement before the court.
“As I spun around to try and get by him, Enda striked (sic) me between my legs onto my testicles. As this happened I striked (sic) out, attempting to catch him on the side of the face,” the statement read.
McManamon told gardaí that it was “done on reflex” and that he couldn’t say for definite if his fist had been closed or not.
Under cross-examination from the defence, Garda Ledwith insisted that the accused punched him twice in the face and said he would never forget the blows as he had never been hit with such power before.
“They were the hardest punches I’ve ever received, on the football field or anywhere else. Quite choreographed. The power that was in them, it’s just something you don’t forget,” he said.
“I’m only 12 or 11 and a half stone. He’s 14 stone. I was marking him for nearly an hour and he’s one of the strongest fellas I’ve ever met in 20 years playing football. He’s as strong as they get. The ferocity of his punches are testament to the power of the man,” said Garda Ledwith.
Garda Ledwith said the incident began when their paths crossed and they collided. He said he pushed Mr McManamon very hard in the chest and the accused started throwing punches at him.
He said in the court that the second punch “did all the damage” and fractured his jaw, leaving him “out of operational work and drinking soup for nearly three months”.
The court heard that Garda Ledwith spent three days in hospital and underwent surgery to get metal plates inserted into his jaw.
Garda Ledwith told Diarmaid Collins BL, prosecuting, that he had been instructed to mark Mr McManamon and had gone straight up to him at the start of the match and shook hands.
“There was no reason not to, we never had any history,” he said.
Garda Ledwith said that the accused was a “very, very good footballer,” adding, “you can’t give him any space at all.”
“I don’t know either I was too much in his space, or maybe he was just having a bad day,” he said.
Garda Ledwith said he received one straight red card in his 20 year playing career during a match in Longford when he was defending his brother who was involved in a scrum or a “schmozzle”.
The court heard he also got several double yellow cards, which equate to a red card, during matches with Longford, Na Fianna and his home club of Abbeylara.
He said he had had “many encounters with many an opponent” and admitted punching players off the ball but said it always ended up on amicable terms, “shake hands and no damage done”.
Garda Ledwith said his nose was broken once when he got a head-butt, and that the player was sent off and apologised and they both shook hands.
He agreed that there was no shaking hands after this incident and said it was “a bit more distressing”.
The court heard that a member of Na Fianna went to Garda Ledwith’s house within a week of the incident to show him footage of the incident.
Garda Ledwith said he didn’t really want to look at it and didn’t analyse it.
“It was quite traumatic for my wife. She was in the room when it was on, so I turned it off and gave it back,” he said.
Mr Gordon BL told Gda Ledwith that he was at an advantage over his client as he made his statement a few days after the incident, while Mr McManamon had to wait four months before making his.
Among the witnesses to be called during the trial are the former Dublin County Manager Paul “Pillar” Caffrey, and former member of Dublin County Board, John McNichols.
The case continues today (Thursday) before Judge Ryan and a jury of nine men and three women.