‘He is someone I can trust’ – Limerick hurling manager John Kiely appeals to judge to give player Kyle Hayes ‘second chance’ over violence conviction

Hayes – a five-time All-Ireland winner – was convicted on two counts of violent disorder before Limerick Circuit Criminal Court last December following a trial in which he was acquitted of assault causing harm.

His sentencing was adjourned until March by Judge Dermot Sheehan after he had heard a victim-impact statement and multiple character references on behalf of the hurler.

Limerick senior hurling manager John Kiely attended court to offer character evidence on behalf of Hayes – and personally appealed to Judge Sheehan to give the star hurler, who was hailed in character references as “a role model”, a second chance.

The court also heard a powerful victim-impact statement from Cillian McCarthy (24) who suffered a fractured eye socket and other injuries during the violent disorder incidents in October 2019.

Defence counsel Brian McInerney SC said Hayes accepted the findings of the jury but that: “He does not accept that he was guilty of any attack or administering any violence to Mr McCarthy on the street.

“This was an isolated aberration in an otherwise blameless life for a young man who has contributed enormously to society.”

Mr McInerney noted to the court that his client had been acquitted by the jury of the assault-causing-harm charge.

But he acknowledged: “He has let a lot of people down, not least himself and his family.”

Mr McCarthy, a self-employed carpenter from Ballysimon, said the incidents, both inside and outside the Limerick nightclub four years ago, had left him “terrified” and he was now anxious about socialising around the city.

Mr Kiely told the court the media focus on the case has been “very difficult” for Hayes and dealing with it imposed a great burden on the young man over the past four years.

“Every young man deserves a second chance,” Mr Kiely said as he indicated he has been in almost daily contact with the hurler since 2017.

“He [Hayes] has paid a very high price for [this]. I would respectfully ask, your honour, for Kyle Hayes to be given a second chance.”

Mr Kiely, who was a teacher and principal for 27 years at an all-boys secondary school, said Hayes was a very young man when the incident occurred.

He said the player had learned lessons from it and matured greatly.

“He wishes to put the matter behind him. He very much regrets it and is sorry. He has learned his lesson,” Mr Kiely added.

“I have known him for seven years. I have found him to be someone I can trust. He has a very, very strong work ethic. He is someone who puts the team first and himself last. He is someone I could completely rely on in the most difficult of circumstances.”

Mr Kiely pointed out that the hurler was incredibly generous with his time to charities and voluntary groups.

The Limerick hurling boss, who has guided the Treaty County to five Liam MacCarthy Cup triumphs, insisted the incident was far below the standards they expected and was “completely out of character for Kyle”.

Mr Kiely said top hurlers such as Kyle Hayes devote more than 30 hours each week to training and playing – and even more away from the pitch in terms of charity and voluntary commitments.

“He has learned lessons and he has matured,” Mr Kiely said as he acknowledged, having watched the CCTV security camera footage of the incident inside the Icon nightclub, that the matter was “very disappointing”.

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Mr Kiely also insisted that Hayes had taken responsibility for what happened. However, this was challenged by John O’Sullivan BL, for the State, who pointed out that the hurler, as was his right, had denied all the matters before Limerick Circuit Criminal Court and was convicted by a jury on the violent disorder charges only after a fully contested two-week trial.

The Limerick manager insisted to the court that he was in no way condoning what had happened. Mr Kiely replied “of course” when it was put to him that Mr McCarthy was an entirely innocent party and had the right to socialise without being threatened or left in fear.

As well as Mr Kiely, character references on behalf of Hayes were also submitted from Mark Flanagan of the Kirby Group, Dr Finbarr Murphy of University of Limerick, Derek Cox from St Gabriel’s School, University Hospital Limerick, horse trainer Jim Bolger and others.

Cillian McCarthy, in a victim-impact statement, told the court the incident had left him very frightened.

He said he had received nasty messages in the wake of the incident wrongly blaming him for what happened.

“I was terrified because I was on my own… and my eye was pounding (after being struck on the nightclub dancefloor.”

Mr McCarthy said the attacks had been entirely unprovoked and he was only chatting to two girls he knew when he was confronted by an angry Kyle Hayes.

“I initially thought it was a joke. Why was this happening to me?” he said.

He said he was on the dancefloor when he was first attacked and punched.

John Kiely, Limerick hurling manager, arriving at Kyle Hayes’s sentencing hearing. Photo: Brendan Gleeson

“They attacked me and punched me in the face. They held my arms behind my head so I could not defend myself.”

Mr McCarthy said that, after leaving the nightclub with the assistance of bouncers, he only wanted to go home because his eye was “pounding”.

However, he was chased up the road by a group of men and then attacked again. He said he was knocked to the street and cradled his head as punches and kicks rained down on him.

Mr McCarthy said he later had to undergo surgery for a fracture to his eye socket. He stressed that the aftermath of the incident had left him feeling loneliness, isolation and depression.

“I had headaches, numbness below my eye and double vision. But this incident has had a profound impact on my family,” he added.

“I was left feeling angry and I could take the anger out on my family. Overall, this has had a traumatic impact on me and my family. Everybody knows me now as the guy who was attacked in town.”

Judge Sheehan adjourned the matter to March 20 because he wanted to carefully consider the victim-impact statement and the character references submitted to the court. Hayes was remanded on continuing bail.

Hayes, of Ballyashea, Kildimo, Co Limerick, was convicted of violent disorder by unanimous decision of the jury of seven men and five women following a high-profile two-week trial.

They found him guilty of violent disorder during incidents inside and outside the Icon nightclub in Limerick city centre on October 28, 2019.

Both convictions were returned following almost four hours of deliberation.

Judge Sheehan warned that the threatened use of violence by the hurler on the dancefloor of the nightclub was “extremely dangerous” and that the charges involved were “serious matters”.

“The second incident (violent disorder outside the nightclub) was aggravated by the first incident. There was an opportunity to go home,” he said.

“This country is replete with examples of what happens when young people take to kicking people who are on the ground. He was central to that violent disorder, it appears to me.”

However, the jury acquitted the hurler of assault causing harm to Cillian McCarthy at the nightclub on the same date.

The trial heard testimony from a number of witnesses who said they had seen Hayes punching Mr McCarthy.

It was alleged that a dispute erupted in the nightclub when Hayes had warned Mr McCarthy and a friend to stay away from two young women.

Mr McCarthy tried to explain that they were just talking to the two women with whom they were friendly.

One of them was seeing a friend of Hayes and he warned the men to “stay the f**k away” from the two women.

John O’Sullivan BL, in evidence being given by Detective Garda Barry Moylan, said that Hayes had “taken on the role of policeman of girls who were acquaintances of his friends. Kyle Hayes felt he was entitled to police or monitor the girlfriends of his associates.”

Hayes later told Mr McCarthy: “I am sick of you – I am going to beat the head off you.”

Mr McCarthy said that Hayes then became aggressive and shouted at him: “Do you know who the f**k I am?”

Mr McCarthy then alleged he was attacked on the dancefloor and was punched several times in the head.

The trial heard that, once outside the nightclub, Mr McCarthy had been chased by a group of men along Upper Denmark Street before being beaten and falling to the ground.

Gardaí were called to the scene and offered evidence that they had witnessed Hayes punching a man who was cowering on the ground and trying to protect himself.

When challenged, Hayes ran from the scene before being caught by a garda and arrested.

Det Gda Dean Landers said he had directed Hayes to remain at the scene.

“He [Hayes] told me to f**k off. He pulled his arm, at force, away from my grip and he turned and ran,” Det Gda Landers said.

The garda pursued Hayes shouting at him to stop. The hurler was stopped several streets from the scene when he ceased running.

Gda Daniel O’Riordan said he had witnessed Hayes kicking a young man lying on the ground. He was in no doubt about the identity of Hayes and said he had seen kicks directed at the prone man’s head and shoulder.

Hayes later acknowledged that he had left the scene despite garda instructions. “I just wanted to get out of there, I didn’t want to get dragged into it,” he said.

Later, he said he left the scene because gardaí were “roaring at him”. Hayes had vehemently denied the assault and insisted it did not happen. The hurler plays with Kidimo-Pallaskenry and has been an integral part of the Limerick side that has dominated the sport since 2018, winning five Liam MacCarthy Cups in six years.Hayes halso as five Munster Championship medals and four All Star selections.

The hurler made his debut with Limerick as a minor in 2015. A graduate of University of Limerick, he works in the human resources sector.

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