Beaten By The Punch – Off Message 31

(Updated 15/08/16 – see end)

I got myself a nice wee shiner on Saturday night.

It was the result of an unexpected punch I took outside a Dublin city centre pub, an unpleasant end to an otherwise enjoyable night out with a friend.

01d70005336806a8263a87fd95a3bc178267ec917fSince then what started as a nasty localised gash has developed into a full-on, very obvious, stereotypical black eye.

If you’d spotted me in town over the past few days, however, you probably would have missed my badly bruised aperture as, Bono-like, everywhere I went, so too did my all-concealing sunglasses.

I occasionally felt almost rock star-like.

In truth I mostly felt like one of those nearly always too-cool-for-school twats I usually (occasionally wrongly, no doubt, as some may have them on for medical reasons) reserve the harshest of judgements for, for wearing shades when the sun’s not out – or worse, when indoors.

Getting whacked on a night out of course is no laughing matter.

Which is why, despite taking a bunch of selfies cataloguing the ever-darkening wound since Saturday, I’ve resisted the temptation to post them on social media til now.

Not because I figured people would laugh or take the piss – though some undoubtedly would, and I’d probably be the first to join in – but because I felt that Twitter or Facebook, outlets I’m normally quite a fan of, would only draw attention to something I wasn’t at the time overly keen on going public with.

I felt uncomfortable with the idea of posting pics of my poor periorbital hematoma on Saturday night and in the days since as I just thought such sharing activity could trivialise something very serious.

I didn’t particularly want either the sympathy or outcry of strangers.

Part of me also didn’t want the intrusion of any story-hungry journalists, an especial anomaly given the business I actually work in.

Not that I figured I’m such a high profile celeb I’d be inundated with calls from million different outlets, but I suspected there might be at least some interest in my little story.

And my suspicion was that any such interest would be used by our generally crime-crazed media to sensationalise and inflate as part of their (unconscious?) ongoing campaign of fear.

Of course it would be unfair to lump all my journo colleagues into this category, but from here it sure as hell looks like a general tendency.

Yeah, what happened to me was bad, but y’know, occasionally shit happens and it’s not the end of the world.

That drunken idiot who took a swing at me was, as he subsequently admitted to the Garda who arrested him, bang out of order, but I’m loathe to use his inebriated stupidity as even a hint of any kind of conclusive evidence that society as we know it is gone to the dogs.

I’ll leave that to the already dominant law-and-order brigade.

Back in 1986 I did my dissertation for my Communications Studies degree in the National Institute for Higher Education, Dublin (now DCU) on the reporting of crime in the media, with particular emphasis on the newspapers of the day.

I was impressed to find it was still on a library shelf last time I checked when I was there in 2009 recording an RTÉ Doc on One, Pat’s University Challenge, on its 20th anniversary as a university.

Researching the dissertation I didn’t like what I found.

In 1984/’85 our tabloid cousins – followed all too enthusiastically by the purportedly more reasoned broadsheets – appeared to lead a moral crusade about an alleged joyridingspree that was supposed to be overrunning, if not the entire country, then at least the capital.

It was, of course, a pile of stinking, agenda-lead, bad-journalism, crap.

Apart altogether from the fact that crime statistics have always been notoriously unreliable anyway, it’s impossible in them to differentiate between the various purposes for which cars may be stolen, so there’s no way any such joyriding epidemic could have been based on empirical data.

Oh, and car thefts during the period in question?

Yup, they were actually decreasing.

You can understand so my reluctance now 30 years later to have my sorry tale used as a further whipping boy for any ill-thought-out, world-gone-mad, scaremongering.

Or maybe I’m just paranoid and no one would have actually given a hoot.

So why write about it at all?

I almost didn’t.

But bumping into various friends and colleagues every time I ventured out of the flat meant that I knew word of the shiner would get around sooner rather than later.

Also last week I’d agree to be interviewed this week by comedian Joe Rooney for his regular Pod-a-Rooney podcast and I didn’t want to let him down, despite knowing that the impossible-to-ignore black eye would have to come up at some stage for discussion.

It, of course, did and you can hear all about it when the podcast goes live here in early August.

I figured so I might as well get my take on the topic out there first.

So, back to Saturday night cos I know you’re all on the edge of your seats at this stage…

To cut a long story short, a young inebriated gentleman decided to relieve himself outside the pub just beside where we were seated enjoying our final beverage of the night.

0153d269c9f0fa7d07febbacdb0359143789f4faa4After some remonstrating from yours truly as to the unsuitability of his chosen location for this natural but highly unpleasant activity he for some reason threatened to do me some physical damage.

After a flurry of vulgar verbals and some frankly discourteous pushing and shoving, during which the bar staff arrived on the scene to separate us both, I thought things had calmed down and went to sit down.

Turning my back on my junior adversary was a schoolboy error as he took this easy opportunity to take a swing, catching me cleanly from behind on the temple just beside my right eye.

I’m guessing he hadn’t thought his impressive, if somewhat cowardly, pugilistic move through.

A few minutes later he was under arrest and being whisked away in the back of a police car for an unwanted visit to a local station.

I, of course, didn’t fare too well either, though I was lucky enough to at least be able to go straight home after getting the all clear from the two kind paramedics who gave my battered mug a thorough once-over.

01a35a5c3030c0141e9c9ca84ed3696ea15ac1a034My unfortunate glasses, on the other hand, who on reflection must have taken the full force of the blow, may never help me see clearly again, a task they had been doing without complaint for over six years.

On Sunday I spoke to the Garda who had arrested my unfortunate, caught-short friend.

She said it had dawned on him pretty quickly how stupid he’d been and that he was subsequently quite obviously contrite.

That was enough for me.

Even on the night when she and I had originally spoken, I’d suggested that just getting arrested was all the fright he’d hopefully need and that I was unlikely to press charges.

I’m still unlikely to.

It wouldn’t do him, me or society any good.

And I’ve never thought revenge is justice.

All in all, this was but a very minor incident on one night in Dublin that undoubtedly pales into insignificance when compared to much that happens in any given 24 hours in cities the world over, and it will soon be forgotten about.

It’s called perspective.

Just because it happened to me doesn’t make it important.

Though you can bet it’s a story that I’ll roll out repeatedly over the coming weeks, months and years.

Perish the thought I might ever exaggerate any of it in the retelling.


Update 15/08/16

I met the guy who gave me my black eye – shine-boy, as I recently called him – over the weekend.

Not by chance but deliberately.

Talking to the Garda who was looking after the incident again later that week she had told me that our mutual friend wanted to apologise to me in person and pay for my bust glasses.

She suggested that we hold any such meeting in her station and the other evening we did just that.

It was an odd assignation, to say the least.

All day I wondered if I’d even recognise him; in fact, on my way there I stopped off for a quick bite and spent ages wondering if the vaguely familiar bloke on his own also grabbing some nosh there was him.

It wasn’t, of course – what would the odds have been? – but it certainly added to the unsettling apprehensiveness I was feeling.

The meeting itself was surprisingly short.

He nervously – understandably – shook my hand, apologised and handed me over the agreed glasses’ cash.

I believed his apology was genuine.

And his explanation for his rash behaviour?

He had none; it was, he said, so out of character he couldn’t quite believe he did it himself.

We agreed excessive booze can do strange things to people.

And I didn’t push him on it; it didn’t feel like the right place or time to delve into such details.

Before he left he optimistically suggested that if he ever bumped into me in the street we should go for a pint.

I pointed out that given our history, a mineral water might be a better option.

When I posted this story originally I got a lot of comments here and on various social media about how I was too soft on this guy and should have pressed charges to properly teach him a lesson.

Someone even suggested I should have hit him.

But like I said in reply to one comment, I had talked to the Garda a day or two after it all and two things: our man had no criminal record – he’s never been on their radar at all; and he was, she said, hugely embarrassed and totally contrite when he realised what he’d done.

And y’know, that was enough for me then.

It still is.

I think he’s an alright guy who has learned a lesson.

So does the Garda.

If further down the line we’re proven wrong, on our heads be it.

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35 Comments. Leave new

  • I suppose it is tempting for the wounded ego (and eye) to see the demise of society in that one punch from a drunken lout. And for a journalist to initially want to toss it unfiltered on to the vast pile of we’re going to hell in a handcart stories already clogging our media. But Is there something bigger picture here, nonetheless? Early evening Dublin can give off a lovely vibe, but stay out for a few hours and things can and do turn ugly. Does da dhrink merely uncover the dark side in individuals or is its consumption in such reckless quantities in the name of “going out for a pint” symptomatic of a confused and disillusioned younger population at large? Only asking!

    • You’re right…excessive drug taking of any kind causes problems, but not just in Dublin, or indeed, Ireland. We’re a very badly designed species when it comes to logical decisions even when we’re sober or straight so the last thing we should be doing is encouraging consumption.

  • Padraig McKeon
    August 8, 2016 11:24 am

    eh… would ye cover the glasses son and don’t ever do that again.

    Messing aside is there any such think as a caution in the system – i.e. something that would be against his name but not a criminal record that would cause one single moment of stupidity to impair the rest of his life, instead a ‘tick’ so that if he was of a mind to repeat his stupidity the fact of his having been stupid twice might be a fairer reason to pursue a case?

  • peter murnaghan
    August 8, 2016 11:25 am

    The excuse of “I was pissed” is a bit shit, the decking of someone from behind after the heat of the moment is inexcusable. The fact is that you were un-prepared for it and it could have been a lot worse.. half the stuff you see or hear about happens when somebody is punched unawares by another heroic coward. .. we wallow in our excuses of “I’ve had too many” … and just saw red…

    His single act of stupidity .. … the fact that he’s taking a piss in pretty much your company, and has the arrogance to tell you where to go when you tell him that it’s ruining your night… then takes a swipe when your back is turned worth a bit of forgiveness that you weren’t hurt.. that’s very nice of him..

    His moment of stupidity should cost him.. to let him know what the concequences could have been. .. or else he doesn’t learn.

    And he probably did think it through … not the police bit, but certainly the bit with you lying on the ground scrabbling for your glasses … and it’s not revenge, or justice … but he, ( or his mates) won’t blindside somebody again if they see the results of his actions…

    • We do very stupid things while drunk or stoned…we were both lucky his stupidity hadn’t a more serious outcome…but until I know any different I’m not taking it further…that might change, but for the moment it’s done.

    • david moloney
      August 16, 2016 1:09 pm

      Sorry to hear this happened to Pat whom I know since the good old days in HIHED

      I don’t think this was an act of stupidity, otherwise he would have attempted to punch Pat face-on

      No this was a nasty sneaky move which indicates a lower level of intoxication than claimed

      In fact it’s the sneaky nature of the attack which would have annoyed me had I been on the receiving end

      While I agree there’s no point in going down the prosecution route I hope Pat verbally tore him a new one!

  • pat…sorry to hear of your injury….sad state of affairs when you can’t have a relaxing pint in the city centre without some half-bake fool doing something stupid to ruin your evening….you don’t mind if it’s a bit of shouting or unruly/bad-mannered behaviour but when you’re the subject of physical violence – well, that’s a different and more long lasting matter. i hope you recover from this and the memory eventually fades into a humorous anecdote you can spin from time to time during future and more pleasant forays into your favourite city centre hostelries

  • Sorry to hear this, Pat.
    My colleague Eugene Molony was killed on Camden Street by an unprovoked one-punch attack. His killer, Gary Burch, was 22. After Eugene went down on the ground, Burch threw his ams in the air and shouted “boom!”.
    Eugene and his girlfriend had big plans that ended in an instant. Burch got five and a half years, with the last two suspended, and was allowed finish a FÁS course before he started his prison term.
    The kid who attacked you was lucky that all you ended up with was a black eye, and that you are being so lenient about the consequences for him. But there’s too much of this nonsense happening. I’ve seen many fights in town and while I’m aware you might think that I, as a journalist, am part of the problem, I still think you should press charges.
    If it’s his first offence, he won’t do time – but how do you know it was his first time? Only one way to find out.

    • Pat, am shocked to hear what happened to you. I hope you’re ok. I’m with Philip on this one. Press charges, it’s the only way fools like him with learn. Philip, I’m so sorry you lost your friend. Am disgusted at the leniency shown to his attacker.

      • How do we know it’s the only way ‘fools’ like him learn? What if he’s learned his lesson now? Which, if what the cops have told me is anything to go by, he has. Man, what’s wrong with leniency if it works?

    • I knew Eugene from back in the day. And was horrified when I heard about his death. It’s why I consider myself very lucky.
      But I’ve talked to the gardai about the guy who hit me and two things: he has no criminal record – he’s never been on their radar at all; and he was, they said, hugely embarrassed and totally contrite when he realised what he’d done.
      And y’know, for now that’s enough for me. If further down the line I’m proven wrong, on my head be it.
      In the meantime, I don’t think journos are part of the crime problem, but certainly the media is a vital cog in the overblown FEAR of crime problem.
      It’s what sells.

  • I can relate totally. Foolishly spoke to a newspaper reporter who got a lot wrong and i ended up being vilified for originally not pressing charges

    • Wow. Lot of folk here think I should have pressed charges too. No point if lesson learned. Though at least my guy was arrested. We’ll probably never know if it was the right call.

  • I think your a good man who did the right thing. Impressed you didn’t milk it support any political agenda.

  • Brigid O''Brien
    August 8, 2016 11:37 am

    Alcohol abuse causes family & society violence, clogs up A&E, gives licence to people to be rude, inconsiderate & irresponsible, causes early deaths but as its part of what we are nobody is willing to take it seriously. Whether the man was drunk or sober it is an assault & to be regarded as something that may cause later health problems. You may not be too bothered but how would you respond if the person receiving the blow to the head was Paul Mc Grath or Michael D, both very loved & respected Irish men? Wouldn’t you be upset & deeply offended like the rest of us? Being hit is not ever acceptable.

    • Oh, I agree it’s not acceptable, whoever is at the receiving end. I would never want to give that impression.

      And yup, our attitude to drink stinks, no doubt about that either.

  • Brighid Smyth
    August 8, 2016 11:38 am

    Poor Pat, what a story. I really think the demon drink culture in this country has a lot to answer for . It is out of control. Wishing you well and Hope you make a 100% recovery.

  • Emmett O''Reilly
    August 8, 2016 11:40 am

    I’m glad you got away with just a black eye, statistically, like the house in “The World According To Garp”, you are now “pre-disastered” so should enjoy many years of hassle-free socialising, from now on. On the bigger picture, I use my Mother as the Standard by which I measure how much the media exaggerates crime levels and yes, she is convinced that the country is hacking itself to death in a crazed series of machete attacks. Since my Mother never reads papers and only ever watches RTE News, you can see how far up the food chain the malaise goes. There is nothing I can say, no statistic I can quote that will convince her that her worst imaginings are not reality. On the other hand, it sells papers, it always has and it always will. Everyone in the media has to balance responsible reporting with the demands of the accountants and as accountants in much of the media have been frowning for some time, this is not going to improve any time soon.

  • Seamus Gallagher
    August 15, 2016 12:40 pm

    Glad you’re ok Pat. Apart from the physical damage, you’ve had a frightening experience. The way punch-ups are depicted on TV and in the movies is nothing close to reality. One punch can kill. One moment can affect a person psychologically for life. I’m glad you met the guy. Apart from the points made above on drink, responsibility, pressing charges etc, I think meeting the guy in his sober alter ego might help you deal with what can be a traumatic, once-off moment. It doesn’t excuse his dangerous stupidity but it might be helpful to you.

    And well written by the way. Thought provoking…

  • I’m delighted there was an end to your shinny eye incident… and admire your approach to the situation. Thanks for the update .. xx

  • Pat, fair play to you. You took a measured approach, letting the dust settle and spoke with the Guard to hear their thoughts. It does sound like the fella knew he was well out of line so, from reading the detail, very mush lesson learned and your forgiveness only serves him with another lesson. Well done.

  • Good article, and thought provoking. I’m a bit uncomfortable with the acceptance of the “drink does bad things to us” idea. It seems to work here, but when does it not become acceptable to say that the perpetrator did something out of character, for example in the Brock Turner case? I don’t know the answer, BTW, just wondering…

    • Good point…in vino veritas and all that…yeah, I wouldn’t want to use it to excuse everything, and like you say, it worked here…I don’t know the answer either. 🙂

  • […] Myself and Pat have a shared experience in that we were attacked and beaten up together one night as we walked home from town and it was a strange coincidence that when I chatted to Pat he was sporting a black eye from another unfortunate encounter in town which you can hear about on the podcast or read about on Pat’s blog here. […]


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