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Irish League footballer fights for life after serious assault

By Chris McCullough

Published 12/09/2016

Ballinmallard's Johnny Lafferty and Institute's Niall Grace.
Ballinmallard's Johnny Lafferty and Institute's Niall Grace.
Niall Grace (Creggan Swifts) left keeps possession, despite attempts by Cathal Lynch and Donal O'Brien (Oxford United) at the Templemore Sports Complex. Picture Inpresspics.com. 30.4.11
Niall Grace (left) is in a critical condition

An Irish League footballer is fighting for his life after he was assaulted in Londonderry in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Institute FC player Niall Grace was last night in a critical condition after he was attacked at around 12.45am in Waterloo Street, just hours after a match.

Grace, who is in his early 20s, was rushed to Altnagelvin Area Hospital and then transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, where his condition was described as critical.

A 22-year-old man was arrested shortly after the city centre assault.

A PSNI spokesman said: “The man is due in Londonderry Magistrates Court today charged with grievous bodily harm with intent following a serious assault in Waterloo Street.”

Last night, the official Facebook page for Institute asked fans to remember the midfielder in their prayers.

“We have just received the disturbing news that Niall Grace is in a critical condition after an incident in the early hours of the morning in the city centre. Could you all keep the big man in your prayers!”

On Saturday afternoon, 23-year-old Grace had lined out for Institute against the PSNI in the Championship.

The Drumahoe team, now second in the Irish League’s second tier, thrashed the police 4-0, scoring their first goal after just 20 seconds.

Grace was instrumental in setting up the second goal, and almost put one away himself. It’s believed Mr Grace is unmarried but has a girlfriend.

Irish League clubs were quick to express their support for the player, who joined the club last December.

HW Welders FC tweeted: “Our thoughts are with Niall Grace and the wider @Institute_FC family and hope Niall makes a full and speedy recovery from his injuries.”

Glenavon FC tweeted: “Our thoughts are with Niall Grace and all those at @Institute_FC. We hope Niall makes a full and speedy recovery.”

The Official Institute Supporters Twitter feed read: “Football family coming together in thought and prayer for Niall.”

Detective Constable Stephen Riddell said: “We are conducting enquiries and are requesting the public’s assistance to help determine the full circumstances surrounding the incident. Anyone with information that could assist the investigation should contact detectives at Strand Road Station on 101, quoting reference number 78 of 11/09/16.

“If you prefer to provide information without giving your details, you can contact the independent Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

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