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Brain injury One punch attacker jailed after blow left young GAA player fighting for his life

TJ (26), from Ardee, Co Louth, suffered bleeding on his brain and was put into an induced coma

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Tadgh Meegan apologised in court for his actions

Tadgh Meegan apologised in court for his actions

Tadgh Meegan apologised in court for his actions

A young man as been jailed for two years for a one-punch attack which left a young GAA player fighting for his life.

Tadgh Meegan (26) was told "even one-off blows have consequences" as he was being jailed this week for an attack on TJ Duffy who needed life-saving surgery after suffering a ­serious brain injury following the ­attack in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, in the early hours of April 8, 2017.

After jailing Meegan, Judge Eoin Garavan said: "Let this case be an example to young people heading back to nightclubs and pubs there are dangers other than Covid out there."

TJ (26), from Ardee, Co Louth, suffered bleeding on his brain and was put into an induced coma. He had to have part of his skull removed and undergo emergency brain surgery before spending 17 days in intensive care as a result of the attack.

While he eventually pulled through, he had to learn to walk, breathe and talk again and has been left with serious complications, ­including weakness to his right side and severe difficulties with his right leg.

At the time, TJ was an apprentice electrician and played with Seán McDermotts GAA club in Ardee. He has since completed his training as an electrician but cannot work on site due to his injuries and recently got a job working on circuit boards.

Meegan took to the stand to apologise to TJ and his family before he was sentenced at Monaghan Circuit Court this week.

He said no family should have to experience what Mr Duffy's family did and he hopes TJ continues his recovery.

"I also hope to some day give TJ my hand of friendship," he said, before asking Judge Eoin Garavan for leniency in his sentencing.

He had pleaded not guilty on the basis of self-defence but a jury rejected his plea and found him guilty of Section 4 assault.

At his sentencing, the court heard that just before the attack a fight had broken out between two other men known to them outside Fiddler's nightclub in the town and TJ had intervened to help his friend.

Meegan was in the passenger seat of a nearby car, waiting for a lift home, when he saw one of his friends in a fight with TJ.

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He left the car and punched TJ once, causing him to fall and hit his head.

He put a jacket under the victim's head after realising the seriousness of the injury, but later left the scene. He then told his father what happened, sought legal advice and then presented himself to gardaí.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Duffy's mother, Alison, said one punch turned her family's lives upside down. She said her son had to learn how to breathe and walk again.

"We were facing the real possibility that he wasn't going to wake up," she said.

She said that TJ's twin brother, Emmett, was particularly devastated by the attack.

She added that TJ was determined to recover but his injuries have had a significant impact on his life. "He is unsure if his leg will ever improve…TJ is a young man who is trying just to get his life back," she said.

Defence counsel said the accused wished he could turn back time.

"One punch, one split second of violence has serious consequences for TJ but was a split-second of violence for Mr Meegan.

"He's not looking or sympathy for that. It was out of character but by virtue of being a violent act one punch has very serious consequences," the court was told.

Judge Garavan said it was as a "desperate tragedy for TJ Duffy and the Duffy family and to a lesser degree and in a different way for Mr Meegan and his family".

He said while the attack was spontaneous and Mr Meegan only threw one punch, the consequence were life-threatening.

Sentencing must factor in the viciousness of the assault and the consequence of that blow.

"He was knocked unconscious, intubated, had a CT brain scan, suffered acute subdural hematoma [a blood clot on the brain], underwent brain surgery and was in ICU for 17 days.

"He had to have his skull cap removed, had neurological difficulties and weakness to the right-hand side of his body."

The judge praised TJ for completing his electrician apprenticeship but noted that he was unable to work on sites.

"He has been left with permanent disability which affects his working life, his family life and all parts of his life," he said.

"There was drinking and general mayhem on the streets that night and Mr Meegan got caught up in that melee. He could have walked away and not got involved. Since the offence he has been of good conduct and attended counselling."

He said Meegan's only previous convictions were in relation to road traffic offences and were not relevant to sentencing.

He said Mr Meegan is 26 and has a life to live but that life has been altered as result of his action. "He has to live with guilt from the tragedy he caused," the judge said.

He said while Meegan's life was on hold since the attack, "he's the author of that misfortune".

The judge added that Meegan expressed remorse, sorrow, regret and insight but there are consequences to his actions.

He sentenced him to five years in prison with three years suspended.

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