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Tuesday 26 September 2017

Even World War II was shorter than Battle of the Golf Club Toilet

The ugly bathroom brawl in Lucan Golf Club unfolded in just a few seconds, but the repercussions have lasted more than seven years. And with the case finally making it to Dublin Circuit Civil Court, presiding Judge Joseph Matthews couldn't hide his dismay as he remarked: "It's taken longer to resolve this issue than it took the Second World War to fight, seven years. It's absolutely crazy."

It seems the long passage of time hasn't dulled the strength of anger and hurt between Alan Holmes and Martin Curtis, two men who feel equally aggrieved at one another's alleged actions.

Yesterday, it was the turn of Curtis to explain his version of events, casting his mind back to the night of Wednesday, January 22, 2003.

A lifelong member of Lucan Golf Club, Curtis regularly played a four-ball on Wednesdays but didn't get a round in on the evening in question because he was attending a meeting in the city centre. With a Premier League match on TV that evening, he called his wife and told her he would watch the first half in the clubhouse before continuing his journey home.

Minutes into the match, Manchester United were 1-0 down to Burnley, but as Curtis recalled: "I was still of the opinion that Manchester United would win."

Taking two €50 notes from his wallet, he offered a bet to a nearby table where Holmes was sitting. Nobody took him up on the offer.

Shortly afterwards, he added, "United scored. As soon as they did Alan Holmes shouted across, "You should have taken the bet, you're only a f***ing mouth."

Curtis was taken aback at the remark and told the court: "I didn't think it was appropriate that someone should be speaking in that kind of manner".

He then went over to remonstrate quietly with Holmes, but refuted the claims of other witnesses that he had threatened to "do" Mr Holmes outside.

Towards the end of half time, he went to the gents' bathroom. As he was moving over to the wash-hand basin, he noticed Holmes in the room.

"He made contact with me with his chest", he recalled. "He said something about going outside and if I wanted to sort it out we could go outside."

Curtis then punched Holmes in the face, insisting this was in "self-defence". As the two men continued to grapple, they were pulled apart by club member Paddy Carroll and with the assistance of Ciaran Flynn.

That, according to Curtis, wasn't the end of it. Speaking slowly and clearly into the microphone, he claimed Holmes had grabbed his jacket and kicked and punched him.

The unpleasant incident took all of 15 seconds. Indeed, as Curtis pointed out: "It's taken me several times longer to say it than it took to occur."

And, with a hint of emotion clouding his voice, he added: "I've spent seven and a half years waiting for the truth about this unsavoury incident to emerge."

A doctor who examined Curtis the following day found bruising and swelling on the temple, bruising on the thigh and finger bruises on the right upper arm area. The witness also recalled having incurred abrasions on his hand, but these were not noted by the doctor. This prompted Judge Matthews to ask if it was possible that the injury to his temple could have been caused during a head butt.

Throughout this testimony, Holmes gripped the bench in front of him, shaking his head vehemently on occasion. At times he leaned forward, anxiously biting his teeth as the questioning continued.

Despite almost 40 years experience in law, Judge Matthews looked perplexed, saying it was rare to come across a case where two people so passionately believe they have been wronged by the other.

After the incident, Curtis's brother Joe "gossip and innuendo" were being spread around the bar. He was particularly unhappy with the golf club's internal investigation into the matter, which he said "lacked balance".

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