CONVICTED drug dealer Christy Keane has been shot and seriously wounded in an early-morning attack.
Keane (54) of St Mary's Park, was shot on the campus of University of Limerick (UL) as he made his way to the gym there.
Gardai said that at around 6.50am, two armed and masked men approached Keane as he parked his car on campus before opening fire, shooting him several times.
Mr Keane, who currently resides at Norwood Park, Dublin Road, was shot just before 7am.
Gardai said Keane was rushed by ambulance from the UL Campus to University Hospital Limerick where his condition is "critical".
"He was shot five or six times. He has bullets in his chest and other gunshot wounds in his arms," a source said.
"He's still alive, but he's in a critical condition."
A car believed to have been used by the gunmen was found burnt out a short distance away. Gardai have sealed off the scene near the University of Limerick Sports Arena where the attack happened.
Detectives will provide round the clock protection for the convicted criminal at the hospital.
"He has a number of bullets in his chest and he's lost a lot of blood," the source said. "There are gardai all around him."
Mr Keane is said to be a regular user of the UL gym, which also hosts some of the world's top athletes and is the home training ground for the Munster rugby team.
In 2000, the father of two was sentenced to 10 years jail after been caught carrying €240,000 worth of cannabis in a coal sack in St Mary's Park.
He had previously been aligned to Limerick hitman Eddie Ryan but there was a split in the gang which led to Limerick's notorious murderous feud. Keane, who has spent a lot of time in Spain since he was released from prison in 2009 has kept somewhat of a low profile in recent years.
Independent Limerick councillor Emmet O'Brien attended UL just seconds after two gunmen approached Mr Keane and opened fire.
"I was arriving to do a (swimming) pool session as the gardai were arriving. This was an absolute act of thuggery in a very public forum," he said.
"It's an absolute disgrace and the height of criminality. Bystanders could have been shot."
While most students at UL have gone home for summer holidays, the professional sports facilities there continue to be used all year round.
"There's an earlier pool session which starts around 5am. It starts to pick up around 7am.
"You have the triathlon club training there and the gym is being used and the hall is being used. The (sports arena) car park was quite full when I was parking.
"UL is an extremely safe place and this out of the ordinary. I speak on behalf of all politicians in ensuring the dark days of criminality won't occur again," said Mr O'Brien.
Christy's younger brother Kieran took over the family drugs business when Christy was incarcerated but also became a victim of the feud in 2003.
Kieran and his nephew Owen Tracey were duped into meeting associates who said they had kidnapped the Keane's rivals Kieran and Eddie Ryan Jnr who were to be murdered.
However, in a notorious double cross, the Ryans were freed and Kieran Keane and Owen Treacy were kidnapped. Keane was tortured and shot dead at Drombana, Co Limerick.