TWO footballers who carried out a “shameful attack” during a night out in Dublin have walked free from court after being handed suspended prison sentences.

Liam Callaghan, 27, whose address was given to the court previously as Lime Park Crescent in Kelty, and Craig Johnston, also 27, whose address was given to the court previously as Mossgreen Street in Kelty, both pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm and obstruction in Dublin city centre on December 8, 2019.

The court heard previously that the men are semi-professional footballers with Montrose FC, they are cousins and each had one previous conviction.

Imposing sentence on Friday, Judge Orla Crowe said the “utterly blameless” injured man had been “attacked by two men who had no reason to come down a road after him”.

There had been an altercation between the victim and a colleague of Callaghan and Johnston at a bar. Judge Crowe noted there had been no prior interaction between the then 52-year-old victim and the footballers, and what had happened at the bar had “nothing to do” with Callaghan and Johnston.

Judge Crowe said this was a “shameful attack carried out by two people visiting this country” and the men had “involved themselves in a matter that was at an end”.

She said the assault had serious consequences for the victim, which was an aggravating factor in this case. Defence counsel told Judge Crowe that both accused had brought €6,000 to court as a token of remorse, which the victim was willing to accept.

Judge Crowe said she took into consideration as mitigation the fact that both men had no previous convictions for violence, were working and were talented footballers. She noted that both men were very remorseful and had travelled from Scotland to attend all court dates.

Judge Crowe said Callaghan was the “more dominant” of the two men during the attack, having thrown the first punch, but Johnston joined in.

She imposed a two-year prison sentence on both men. The judge said in the circumstances, she would suspend the sentence in full on condition that both men keep the peace for two years.

She also directed that the gesture of remorse from both men was to be handed over to the victim.

Garda Emmet Hayde gave evidence at a previous sitting that the victim and his partner stopped at a bar called Xico, on Baggot Street, around 1am for a drink before heading home after an evening out.

While at the bar, the victim was involved in an altercation with a colleague of Callaghan and Johnston and was asked to leave. The couple were walking to get a taxi at around 2am when the victim heard shouts behind him.

He turned around and was punched in the jaw by Callaghan, who was identified from CCTV footage. A passer-by attempted to intervene. Johnston then arrived and, along with Callaghan, tried to get at the victim.

The passer-by took the victim to try to get away, but the pair followed and continued their attack. One picked up a traffic cone and swung it at the victim. A Garda public order unit was in the area and observed the assault.

Gardai also saw one of the accused hit the victim with a box, which caused his head to bounce off the ground. The two men attempted to flee but were apprehended by gardai.

The injured man was taken to hospital where he was treated for injuries to his face, lower leg and ankle. He required three surgeries on his ankle. His left eye socket was also fractured but he sustained no serious injury to his eye.

Photos of his injuries and CCTV footage of the incident were shown to the court.

In a victim impact statement, the man said his “Christmas was ruined” by the attack, which had also caused bouts of depression and anxiety in crowds.

The victim said he had missed opportunities to work abroad and suffered an economic loss of more than €6,000 due to this incident.

The court heard that neither defendant had come to the attention of the authorities since the incident. Gda Hayde accepted that an altercation had taken place between the victim and a colleague of the defendants at Xico.

Karl Monahan BL, read a letter from the defendants’ colleague of their account of the altercation at the bar. Mr Monahan said this incident had been on Callaghan’s mind, though his reaction was disproportionate.

Judge Crowe said Callaghan’s reaction was “completely disproportionate” as he had followed the victim onto a public street.

Callaghan took the stand and apologised to the victim on his and Johnston’s behalf for what happened. Both men were remorseful and sorry for their actions, which were out of character, the court was told.