Limerick hurling manager asks judge not to jail star player after conviction for nightclub violence

Limerick hurling boss John Kiely told the court that "every young man deserves a second chance". Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

THE manager of the Limerick senior hurling team and reigning All-Ireland champions, John Kiely, asked a judge today not to jail star hurler Kyle Hayes following his conviction for violent disorder at a local nightclub six years ago.

Mr Kiely, who is a school teacher, pleaded with Judge Dermot Sheehan to give the four-time All-Star “a second chance”.

Mr Kiely acknowledged Mr Hayes had let down his family, his teammates, and his loyal young fans “who look up to him”.

Hayes (25) had pleaded not guilty to one count of assault causing harm to carpenter Cillian McCarthy outside the Icon nightclub on October 28, 2019, as well as two counts of violent disorder inside and outside the club on the same night.

Following a two-week trial at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court last December, a jury found Mr Hayes not guilty of assault but guilty of both violent disorder offences.

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Hayes told Gardaí he could not recall “aggressively” approaching Mr McCarthy in Smyth’s Bar on the night and told him to “stay the f*ck away” from two young women he was chatting to in the bar, as alleged by the State.

Prosecuting counsel John O’Sullivan BL said when Mr McCarthy tried to explain to Mr Hayes that he was friends with the two women, Mr Hayes got in his face and shouted “do you know who the f*ck I am… I’m getting sick of you, I’m going to dig the head off you”.

Star Limerick hurler Kyle Hayes outside the Limerick court complex on Mulgrave Street. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

Mr McCarthy said Mr Hayes and others approached him later on the dancfloor of the Icon nightclub, located above the bar, and rained down punches on his head and face while his hands were held behind his head so he could not defend himself.

Hayes also denied allegations by Mr McCarthy that he “kicked, stamped, and punched” him while he lay on the ground after a mob, including Mr Hayes, chased him outside of the club.

Two Gardaí gave evidence that they saw Mr Hayes kicking a man on the ground outside the nightclub, they detained Mr Hayes but he broke free and ran away.

Gardaí eventually detained Mr Hayes a few streets away and he told them he ran because they were “roaring” at him and he did not know why.

Mr O’Sullivan said it was clear from CCTV footage on the night that Mr Hayes got involved in “gratuitous and unprovoked violence on the streets of Limerick”.

Addressing Judge Sheehan, who indicated he is considering a custodial sentence, Limerick hurling manager, John Kiely said: “I respectfully ask you, judge, to give him  a second chance.”

Mr Kiely said he was “not in the slightest” condoning what Hayes did on the night, but told the judge that “every young man deserves a second chance”.

Mr Kiely said he had viewed the CCTV footage of the dancefloor violence and described  Mr Hayes’ behaviour as “very disappointing”.

However, Mr Kiely told the court that Mr Hayes “is somebody I trust, he has a very strong work ethic, he’s a strong leader, he puts his team first and himself last. He is someone I could rely on even in the most difficult of circumstances”.

Mr Kiely said Mr Hayes telephoned him within 24 hours of the violent incident and told him what happened.

The Limerick hurling boss said he believed that Mr Hayes “accepts his very disappointing part in that night” and that “he is very sorry”.

Mr Kiely said Mr Hayes had already “paid a heavy price” because of the media covering the court case and said he believed that Hayes had “taken responsibility for his actions”.

Mr Kiely however agreed under questioning that he had not attended the two-week trial last December in which Mr Hayes had denied all of the charges or having encountered Mr McCarthy on the night.

The hurling manager said Mr Hayes’ behaviour on the night was “not good enough” and did not meet the standards Mr Kiely sets for his Limerick team.

Hayes barrister, senior counsel Brian McInerney, suggested the charges were at the “lower end” of the scale of offending – however judge Sheehan responded that he disagreed.

The barrister said Mr Hayes accepted the verdicts of the jury and reiterated the hurler had been acquitted of assault, a charge he had always denied.

Reading his victim impact statement to the court, Mr McCarthy said he had been “easy going, hard working, enjoying life, loved playing sport, was ambitious” but, after the night in question, “all this changed”.

Mr McCarthy said he was left “terrified” after the dancefloor attack and after he was escorted outside the club by bouncers nursing a “pounding” head and swollen eye.

Carpenter Cillian McCarthy arriving to the sentencing hearing with partner Roisin Giltinane. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

He said he felt “alone and afraid” when set upon a second time outside the club by a group of men.

He said he has been left suffering persistent and severe headaches, blurred vision, and underwent surgery for a fractured bone to his right eye.

The attacks had “a profound impact” on him and his family who are now in a constant state of fear whenever he leaves his home.

“My biggest fear has been returning to socialising in Limerick again for fear I would meet these people again.”

Mr McCarthy said that afterwards he received hateful messages from people online in which “photos of me were circulated on social media with nasty comments”.

He said his “confidence, work, and family” had all been negatively impacted.

Character references outlining Kyle Hayes’ charity work, including visits to schools and hospitals, were provided to the court, including from high profile horse trainer Jim Bolger, as well as the managing director of the Kirby Engineering Group, where Mr Hayes works, and others across the health and education sector.

Mr Hayes, who the court heard faces the possibility of a maximum 10 years in jail and/or a fine, was remanded on bail for sentencing on March 20.