The trial of a woman footballer with St Anne’s Football Club in Ballylinan, charged with assaulting a rival player from Vale Wanderers, Carlow, during a soccer match, collapsed recently, as the State had not made enough effort to track down a match report.
The case was before Portlaoise Circuit Court in December.
Mary Lawless (33), of Athy, Co Kildare, was charged with assault causing harm, at St Anne’s Football Club, Ballylinan, on March 22, 2015.
The alleged assault took place on the pitch during a match between St Anne’s and Vale Wanderers.
The injured party was Ms Orla Sheehy, of Old Leighlin, Carlow.
The accused, Ms Sheehy, and a third player were all sent off following the incident.
Giving evidence, Ms Sheehy said the accused just ran at her shouting and screaming, using lots of profanities and calling her names.
She said she was pushed onto her back and the accused got on top of her.
Ms Sheehy said she started shouting for the referee and he glanced around, but didn’t do anything. Other players pulled her free: “I think it took half the team to do that,” she said.
The witness also said it felt as though someone was kicking her on the ground.
Ms Sheehy said that when the game ended she saw the accused sprinting towards her looking pretty angry, so she ran into the dressing room and slammed the door behind her.
“She burst into the dressing room and grabbed me by the jersey and said she was going to kill me,” said Ms Sheehy.
She said that the Ballylinan coach came in and pulled the accused out.
The witness said she suffered bruising, a black eye, bruising down her right side and on her inner ear, and a concussion. She attended with her GP and at the Eye and Ear hospital.
Defence for the accused, Ms Geraldine Fitzpatrick, put it to Ms Sheehy that the witness had tackled the accused and taken the accused down from behind, to which the witness said she completely disagreed with that.
Ms Sheehy also said she disagreed with defence’s claim that both players went down and there was jersey pulling.
Ms Jessica White, Vale Wanderers, said in the second half of the match she saw a girl on top of Ms Sheehy hitting her on the head.
“She was angry, she just wanted to hit Orla,” said Ms White.
She said she went with Ms Sheehy to the dressing room, when the player who had attacked Ms Sheehy burst through the door and ran towards her. She said that a manager then took this player out.
Ms Lisa Haw, Vale Wanderers, said she saw the accused grab Ms Sheehy to the ground and lie on top of her, hitting her to the side of the face.
She said that after the match, she saw the accused running into the dressing room after Ms Sheehy and she heard shouts and screams.
Ms Karen O’Shea, Vale Wanderers, said she observed the accused on top of Ms Sheehy, punching her in the face with both hands.
She said that after the game, Ms Lawless burst into the changing room and went for Ms Sheehy, shouting “awful things” at her.
Mr Michael McCrossan, manager of Vale Wanderers, said he saw Ms Sheehy being punched to the head and face by the accused.
“I remember looking at the referee, he was wandering around like a lost sheep, he wasn’t doing anything,” said Mr McCrossan.
Garda Michael Hurley gave evidence that he got “no help” from anyone at St Anne’s Football Club in his investigation.
Garda Hurley said the referee in the match, a Mr Pat Moran, told him he didn’t want to get involved in the investigation and told the gardaí that if they wanted a copy of the match report they would have to get a court order and contact the FAI.
Garda Hurley said he did not contact the FAI and did not get a court order for the match report.
“There was an ongoing investigation and I was getting stymied at every turn,” he said.
At the conclusion of the evidence by the State, Ms Fitzpatrick made a legal submission to the court in the absence of the jury.
After listening to the submission, Judge Keenan Johnson ruled that it would be unsafe to send the charge forward to the jury and returned a verdict of not guilty against the accused.
He said there was no match report in court and the referee should have been present, adding that greater efforts should have been made to get the referee’s report.