Twenty minutes before the match was due to kick off, violence erupted between the rival sets of fans close to Patsy’s Bar in the town centre
In addition to the combined order of 100 hours community service and two years on probation, Kyle Galloway was also handed a five year football banning order which bars him from attending any regulated football match.
Judge Roseanne McCormick KC warned the 27-year-old however that if he breached any aspect of any of the orders, “I will dust off my notes and will remind myself this case easily crossed the custody threshold and you will receive the eight month prison sentence.”
At an earlier hearing of Antrim Crown Court Galloway, from Kinnegar Rocks in Donaghadee, pleaded guilty to a single count of assaulting an unknown person on 29 January last year.
Prosecuting counsel Michael Chambers told the court the police had set up an evidence gathering operation in Coleraine town centre, specifically for the Irish League match between Coleraine and Linfield.
Twenty minutes before the match was due to kick off, violence erupted between the rival sets of fans close to Patsy’s Bar in the town centre.
Mr Chambers said the footage recorded by the police had captured Galloway throwing the first punch on an unidentified male who was knocked to the ground and that sparked a “melee” of wider violence involving up to 30 so-called football fans.
“This was a busy Saturday afternoon in the heart of Coleraine, and members of the public not involved in the disorder were in close proximity to this,” said the barrister, submitting that was an aggravating feature.
Although he tired to hide his identity using a hood, Galloway was identified because he was wearing a distinctive coat and the good had been ripped off during the fracas where Galloway had ben “assaulting anyone in his path.”
That same coat was seized by police when they arrested Galloway at his home and although he refused to answer police questions during interviews, he did become “notably emotional when police highlighted the effects of 'One punch kill' incidents.”
Mr Chambers argued that although Galloway had admitted his guilt and had a clear record, there were numerous aggravating features including the assault occurred in the context of football hooliganism and was in a busy town centre during the day time.
Defence counsel Thomas McKeever, instructed by solicitor Mark Austin, said it was not the case that Galloway “goes to football games and has been involved in fights for years.”
“This was a one off, a momentary moment of madness in his part,” said the barrister who stressed that “it’s the first time that he had ever been involved” in football violence “and he will pay the price for that today.”
He said that according to Galloway, he had been drinking on the train to Coleraine and the Linfield fans found themselves “taunted and goaded” by rival fans as they left the train station.
In stark contrast to the hooliganism offence, Mr McKeever highlighted how Galloway was heavily involved in his local community and local football team, volunteering at the community centre and “giving freely of his time” to help others.
Sentencing Galloway, Judge McCormick said it had been a “disgraceful episode…of football hooliganism and will not be tolerated.”
“This was deplorable behaviour, a waste of public resources, upset people who had nothing to do with football and brings everybody associated with football into shame,” declared the judge.
Imposing the combination order, she told Galloway that would allow him to “make reparations” to the community.