Man jailed for six years for killing former soccer star over ‘bag of cans’

Michael Casey was jailed today for the manslaughter of Limerick junior soccer star Alan Bourke. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

A MAN who killed a former Republic of Ireland junior soccer star in an assault during a dispute over a bag of cans of alcohol was today (Monday) jailed for seven years with the final year suspended.

Michael Casey, who pleaded guilty to Limerick soccer player Alan Bourke’s manslaughter, was previously convicted of breaking into the home of an elderly man who suffered a fatal heart attack during the burglary.

Casey (40), with an address at Cathedral Place in Limerick City, admitted fatally assaulting Alan Bourke (48), from St Mary’s Park, at Parnell Street in Limerick City, on Friday April 15 2022.

Paramedics valiantly tried to keep Mr Bourke alive at the scene and on the way to University Hospital Limerick, where he was pronounced dead.

Mr Bourke, a former manager at a tool hire plant, had excelled at soccer and rugby but had fallen on hard times due to struggles with alcohol.

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A talented striker, scoring 20 plus goals a season, Mr Bourke won a Munster Junior Cup medal with Mungret Regional FC in 1994 and was capped for the Republic of Ireland junior soccer team in 1996 – the same year he appeared for Mungret Regional in an FAI Junior Cup final, for which he and the rest of the team were awarded a civic reception with then Mayor of Limerick and former Labour TD, Jan O’Sullivan.

On the night he died, Mr Bourke and a friend left sheltered accommodation in Limerick City to go begging to get money to buy alcohol, the court heard.

CCTV footage, played to the court, showed Mr Bourke wheeling his bicycle and a suitcase containing clothes and a sleeping bag as he went to meet up with his friend again. He had purchased 10 cans of beer and was walking near Colbert Rail Station when he was accosted by Mr Casey and others.

Prosecuting senior counsel, Anne Rowland SC, said Casey struck Mr Bourke with a “violent and aggressive blow” after another man who was in Casey’s company – and who was not before the court – had allegedly taken his bag of cans and wouldn’t give it back.

Mr Bourke fell backwards and hit his head on the pavement, the CCTV footage showed.

Casey and the others “callously” walked away with Mr Bourke’s bike and bag of beer cans, Ms Rowland said.

“He was lying on the ground completely motionless, they casually made their way off.”

An autopsy on Mr Bourke’s body confirmed he suffered a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage in the fall.

He also sustained bruising to his face and forehead from the assault.

Mr Casey, who was before the court on a single charge of manslaughter, told Gardaí after his arrest: “It was an accident. I was friends with Alan, we laughed and cried together, I hit him, I was drunk, he was drunk … I’m really sorry and sorry to his family.”

A victim impact statement written by Mr Bourke’s sister Diane read: “Alan was a loving son, father, and friend to man, and our lives have changed forever.”

“Alan had the biggest heart and was the apple of his late mother’s eye. We try to remember how he lived and not how he died.

“To this day, I avoid Parnell Street at all costs. It is awful to be scared all the time in your own city. I’m not Alan’s sister anymore, I’m the girl whose brother was killed.”

Judge Dermot Sheehan said Mr Bourke had excelled at sport but was vulnerable in late life, experiencing homelessness around the time of his death.

“It was a significant assault, it was a dispute over a bag of cans,” the judge said.

Judge Sheehan said Casey should have been “forewarned” about the serious consequences of committing crime after he had been convicted in 2016 for burglary at the home of 62-year-old bachelor John O’Donoghue, in Doon, County Limerick, in 2015.

In April 2018, Casey, along with his cousin David Casey (23), with an address at Carragh Park, Belcamp, Dublin 17, had their sentences for the burglary conviction increased at the Court of Appeal from three and a half years to five and a half years each, after the court found their original sentences at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court had been too lenient.