YOUNG Derry footballer Niall Grace, who had been left in a critical condition in hospital after a brutal ‘one punch’ attack in the city, was given a hero’s welcome back to his club yesterday.
Niall is pictured with Institute FC chairman Bill Anderson a month after the footballer was left fighting for his life in hospital after the attack outside a Derry bar.
The club tweeted the picture with the message: “Chairman Bill Anderson and Niall Grace celebrating our late winner today!
“Great to have you back big man!”
The 23-year-old sustained a serious head injury during an incident in Derry’s city centre in the early hours of September 11 when he was punched to the head.
Niall was rushed initially to the accident and emergency department at Altnagelvin Hospital.
But because the seriousness of his injuries he was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast to be treated by a specialist head injury trauma team.
Niall received 24 hour treatment while he spent several weeks in an induced coma to help relieve the swelling to his brain.
But he defied the odds and because of his fitness he made a steady recovery which was trumpeted by family and friends through social media messages.
However, Niall made a steady recovery and his family and friends were delighted recently when he was discharged from hospital.
And yesterday, as he heads towards a full recovery, Niall made a welcome appearance at Institute’s Riverside Stadium in Drumahoe to watch his team snatch a late goal and beat Lurgan Celtic.
Last month, a district judge has remanded a 22-year-old into custody over the attack on Niall Grace.
Matthew McDermott was accused of assaulting the Institute FC player.
The PSNI said the assault happened at 12.45 am on Sunday morning in Waterloo Street.
McDermott, from Cornshell Fields in the city, was accused of grievous bodily harm with intent.
He was also charged with possession of the Class A drug ecstasy contrary to the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.
It is alleged a fight broke out between the victim and the defendant outside a city centre bar.
The incident was caught on a CCTV security system.
The footage allegedly showed both men throwing a punch before the victim fell and struck his head on the pavement – an incident of so-called ‘one punch’ assault.
McDermott was remanded in custody over fears for his own safety given the public reaction and outrage at the assault.
He was later taken away in a prison van to a remand unit until his next court appearance.