Power of the Cup: Limerick man left brain damaged after assault smiles during visit

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

The Liam MacCarthy Cup paid a special visit to Denis Franklin and his parents, Josephine and John Picture: Mike O’Riordan

The Liam MacCarthy Cup paid a special visit to Denis Franklin and his parents, Josephine and John Picture: Mike O’Riordan

LIMERICK hurling manager John Kiely has said for those who “have struggles in their life and for people who are very ill, it’s moving to see the impact the Liam MacCarthy Cup has on them”. 

Sixteen years ago, Denis Franklin, a former minor hurler with Limerick, was viciously assaulted in Cork city. The Pallasgreen man, aged 20 at the time, was left severely brain damaged, without speech and practically blind.

But Denis could hear and feel something different on one of his weekly visits home from Milford to his parents, Josephine and John. Liam MacCarthy was at his bedside.

Mum, Josephine, said the visit organised by team kitman, Ger O’Connell was “very special”.

“They were all here, all his brothers and sister. Some of the neighbours were in as well. There was a good crowd around him. Denis was listening to all the voices and the sounds. It was great. Denis did smile. He knew there was some commotion going on,” said Josephine.

Coincidentally, John Kiely taught three of her sons – John, Martin and Thomas – in the Abbey CBS. The family is completed by Michael and Elaine. They are all hurling mad.

“My husband, John used to hurl with Pallas and I’m fromTipperary so I’m a rival. There is always a lot of slagging whenever Tipp and Limerick play. 

“I was delighted when Limerick won. I am longer in Limerick than any place else. We were so thrilled with the win. All the lads here went,” said Josephine, who thanked Ger O’Connell for organising the visit.

Denis, who was a brilliant full-back with club and underage county teams, would surely have been in Croke Park if the events of February 17, 2002 hadn't occurred.

“He was to come home that night but there was a party. He wasn’t long in Cork. He was studying chemistry in Cork Institute of Technology. Himself and another young fellow from Cappamore were attacked for no reason. Denis came out the worst. 

“They revived him but he was left brain dead. He is in hospitals and nursing homes since that happened. He is in Milford now. He is paraplegic, he can’t speak, he can see shadows, the optician said he is not totally blind,” said Josephine. 

The man who kicked Denis while he lay prone on the ground only received a four year prison sentence. Josephine says they prefer not to think about him.

“We’ve had a tough time. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. We try to do our best. Once he is comfortable in the bed and in the wheelchair Denis is fine. They take great care of him in Milford. He very seldom gets sick. He is very well looked after,” said Josephine.

Every Wednesday, Denis comes out to their Pallasgreen home to stay overnight. The other six nights of the week, Josephine and John go in to Milford to say the Rosary with him.

“We never miss a night. We took him to Lourdes two years ago. It was a big undertaking but we got him there and back. His nurse came with us. He was really happy and smiling there. It would be a miracle for him to be healed,” said Josephine. Wherever Denis goes he is accompanied by the Lady of All Nations prayer and photo of Our Lady.

The poignant prayer reads: “You, nations of this time, know that you are under the protection of the Lady of All Nations, invoke her as Advocate; ask her to stave off all disasters. Ask her to banish degeneration from this world. From degeneration comes disaster. From degeneration comes war. Through my prayer you shall ask that this be staved off from the world. You do not know how great and how important this prayer is before God.” Those words mean a lot to the Franklin family, as did the visit of the Liam MacCarthy Cup.