An Irish footballer who was left in a coma for five weeks this summer has criticized the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) for their incomprehensible attitude towards player-on-player violence on the pitch.

County Fermanagh born Mark McGovern was struck by a rival player during a match in San Francisco on June 25, suffering a severe head injury. Friends and family were initially told he might not make it through the night.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner this week, the 23-year-old player said he has forgiven his assailant Patrick Power, but he is furious with GAA over the maximum 96-week ban that was handed down to him.

"You give an official a slap in the arse, you are gone for life," McGovern told the Examiner. "I was nearly killed and he gets 96 weeks. I’m good at moving on but I’ll stand in front of those changing rooms if they let him play again. I don’t want him to touch an O’Neill's ball again. Football was such a big part of my life and it was taken away from me. But the position I’m in now, other than him playing football again, I feel nothing against him really. I feel sorry for him being that type of person and he’s now in a far worse position than me. I’m back on my feet and he has to live with this. But when championship comes around and I can’t play and I can’t train, I don’t know what way I’ll be. Maybe then I’ll go outside and scream at the top of my voice."

The incident has placed Power, an American citizen, at the center of an ongoing investigation by the American police.

Meanwhile McGovern’s teammate Emmet Scollan told the Examiner of his recollections of the terrifying incident: "He kept going into seizures and there was blood frothing at his mouth. It was scary and obvious it was more than someone being knocked out."

McGovern's father, who spent the summer standing sentry at his son’s bedside with the rest of the family and was left with a $1.1 million medical bill, also criticized the GAA.

"In the end the GAA helped us out as regards financial assistance but before that they never contacted us for the first four to five weeks," Danny McGovern told the Examiner.

McGovern is now making a steady recovery but still sounds unsure of his future.

"I get into dazes. Once my eye catches something I’ll spend three or four minutes staring at it before I snap out of it. I tell myself to stop but that doesn’t work. When I’m talking, a word won’t come and I’ll have to use four or five words to explain it. It could be something so simple and I end up relying on the person beside me to think of it. I need to take a nap in the day. So I’m worried about finding a company that will take me on and give me a fair shot. At times I feel lost."

To date not one Irish witness has come forward to describe in detail what they saw on the night.


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Mark McGovern