Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Too bad Alcatraz is closed

Mark McGovern came to the US on June 20th 2011 and in San Francisco on June 25th lined out to play Gaelic football for Ulster San Francisco against the the San Francisco Celts. Early in the second half, in an "off the ball incident", Mark was floored by a vicious blow to the head. As he lay prone on the ground, a Celts player standing over him was heard to say "You will not get up from that!" Mark, all of 22 years old, went into seizures and ultimately a coma.

Despite there being 28 other players, a referee, a couple of linesmen, coaches, spectators, apparently no one witnessed the assault. Or at least no one has the gumption to come forward and name the perpetrator. As of today, five weeks later, no arrests have been made. There is a "person of interest" who has hired an attorney and will not speak directly to the cops... Go figure.

If this were to happen on Main Street Anytown, surely witnesses would cooperate, the assailant charged and would now be awaiting trial. However, in the close knit and closed mind circles of the Bay Area GAA, it is deemed better to protect their own and close ranks. Why the SFPD has not subpoenaed the lot of them is beyond me.

Meanwhile, Mark remained in a coma until just the other day. His family and girlfriend travelled over from Fermanagh immediately after the attack and have maintained a bedside vigil since. Mark has tried to speak and just this week managed a few tentative steps with help. Several weeks of care in SF General Hospital will not be cheap. We can only hope that Mark's condition continues to improve. He is now in a rehab facility and his condition upgraded from serious to fair. Throughout the weeks of his ordeal, Mark has battled a liver problem, pneumonia and infection.

Regardless of Mark's recovery, the flip side and aggravating fact is that his assailant walks free. Who knows what prompted the attack? A rough tackle beforehand, angry words exchanged, etc. It is noted that American born players who try their hand at Gaelic football feel they have something to prove and act is if it is American Football without the pads and helmet. They think nothing of tackling with a closed fist, making no effort to play the ball. No matter what prompted the attack, the assailant should "man-up", come forward and express remorse, beg forgiveness and pay towards Mark's medical bills and the expenses of Mark's family.

If Mark continues to improve, it will be interesting to see if he can recall what happened and name names. Will he press charges? This is a clear case of assault and battery. I have followed this since it was first reported will continue to monitor the outcome. I will be disappointed if the thug that cold clocked Mark does not get jail time. Like I said, too bad Alcatraz is closed...

Of course, an arrest would mean the SFPD actually took action and showed some interest in the case. By now, the assailant has probably moved on. Mark's condition is bad enough - the fact his attacker remains free is incomprehensible and casts a negative pall of indifference over the SFPD and cronyism over the SF GAA. Every young GAA player in Ireland (and the US) should be put on notice that the Bay Area is not a safe place to play ball. Moreover, the SF Celts are a team to be avoided. They will take cheap shots and you will be left in a fetal position, warned that you will not get up... and no one will intervene.

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