Man charged as footballer Niall Grace remains critical
An Irish League footballer was still in an induced coma yesterday as a man was charged with an attack outside a Londonderry bar that left Niall Grace in a critical condition, a court heard.
Institute FC midfielder Grace (24) is in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after he was punched once in the head in the early hours of Sunday, the magistrates court in Derry heard.
Grace was critically injured just hours after Institute FC trounced the PSNI team 4-0.
In court charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Grace was Matthew McDermott (22), a factory worker from Cornshell Fields in Derry.
The defendant told the court: "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do it."
McDermott, who has no previous criminal convictions, is also charged with possessing a tablet of the Class A drug ecstasy.
Members of the defendant's family were in court when a detective constable said he could connect the defendant to both charges.
The officer said in the early hours of Sunday morning the police received reports of an assault outside a bar in Waterloo Street from members of the city centre CCTV monitoring unit.
"When the police arrived the injured party was conscious and breathing and receiving treatment from members of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service," the detective said.
"He had a cut to the back of his head, blood was coming from his nose and he was vomiting.
"He was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital but his condition quickly deteriorated and he was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in a critical condition.
"Emergency surgery was carried out to stop a swelling of his brain and the latest medical report from the hospital is that he is critical but stable and he is in an induced coma," the police witness added.
The officer said the defendant was recognised by the CCTV monitors and by bouncers in the local bars and he was arrested a short distance away.
The officer said so far a total of 12 witness statements had been taken and he confirmed that Mr Grace had earlier been involved in an incident with the defendant and the defendant's brother in a bar.
The witness said the CCTV footage from outside the bar showed the defendant acting in an aggressive and provocative manner towards the victim.
"Following the incident outside the bar the defendant was involved in another assault when he was apprehended by the police. We believe he was looking for a fight," the detective constable said.
The PSNI witness said he opposed the defendant getting bail because of a fear that he would interfere with witnesses who have yet to be spoken to by the police.
"Also there is the potential that the defendant is at risk himself following the public reaction to the incident.
"We have a fear for the safety of the defendant," he told District Judge Peter King.
Applying for bail, defence barrister Nicola Coulter said CCTV footage showed both the defendant and the victim "coming towards each other and they both threw one single punch at each other".
She added: "Both fell on the ground and the serious injury to the injured party was caused from the fall and not as a result of the punch."
Refusing bail, the judge said he hoped the defendant would not face more serious charges, and that he was concerned about the issue relating to the defendant's personal safety.
"We all know the dangers of a one-punch attack and the devastating impact it can have on the victim", he said.
The defendant was remanded in custody until September 22.