A judge told an amateur footballer who headbutted and broke the nose of an opponent it is regrettable that sports sometimes “cross the line”.
District Judge Peter King was speaking at Ballymena Magistrates Court where Colin McClean (37), a railway worker, of Waterloo Gardens, Larne, was given four months in jail, suspended for a year, after he pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The judge said if people headbutt people anywhere, including during a football match, they can expect to be dealt with by the courts.
McClean was playing for Northern Amateur Football League side Newington Rangers against Holywood FC on January 24, 2015, and a prosecutor said after a tackle the defendant shouted at the opponent and headbutted him on the nose before McClean was sent off by the referee.
The court was told McClean accepted there were a “few hasty tackles”. He approached the other player and after noticing his opponent had his right fist clinched by his side, he felt the injured party was going to assault him.
Defence barrister Neil Moore said an eye-witness claimed the injured party has been feisty on the football pitch and a sliding tackle he made had been full-blooded and if he had contacted with McClean it could have resulted in a serious injury.
Mr Moore said the incident happened two years ago and his client thought it had been “put to bed”.
He said his client accepted what he did on the day was wrong and an over-reaction during a “fractious game”.
He said McClean had played football for many years and had never been before the courts and had a clear record and the incident was “totally out of character”.
Judge King said he took into account the guilty plea, clear record and the fact that he had not re-offended since the incident two years ago. He said he would view it as “a blip” as imposed a suspended jail term and ordered £350 compensation to be paid.