Boxer Roy Sheahan, who says his pro career was ended when his left hand was crushed by a digger bucket, claims he was forced to quit his building job three months after going back to work because of the strain of new “heavy” duties on his good hand.
The four-time national amateur champion went professional in 2018, and threw down the gauntlet to Conor McGregor on the back of a 5-0 win streak that year.
The mixed martial arts superstar replied that facing the Athy southpaw would be a “proper fight”.
Mr Sheahan told a Workplace Relations Commission constructive dismissal hearing on Wednesday that his professional career was ended when his left hand was crushed against concrete by a digger bucket in a January 2020 accident during works on a drain on a building site in at Grange Castle in Clondalkin on Dublin’s westside.
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“I’d seven pins in my hand, two broken bones, squashed ligaments and tendons both sides,” he told the tribunal.
“It stopped my boxing career. That’s all I’d ever done all my life. [In] 2018 I had my sights on going bigger ‘til this happened,” he said.
The tribunal heard that incident is subject to a separate personal injury claim.
Mr Sheahan has now separately accused his employer of constructive dismissal – with his legal team stating that when he went back to work in September 2020 he had to do so much heavy lifting that he was left with no option except to resign.
The employer denies the claim.
Statutory complaints were lodged against two entities in the same group: Kendra Civil Engineering Ltd and Kendra Plant Hire Ltd.
The respondent maintains Mr Sheahan had been re-employed by the plant hire firm in September 2020, about three months before he resigned on December 24th that year, and therefore has too little service to progress a claim under the Act – a position branded a “fiction” by the complainant’s barrister who said his client’s service with the construction group had been “continuous”.
Michael Kinsey BL, who appeared for the Mr Sheahan instructed by Éarainn Ó Conacháin-Briain of Daly Khurshid Solicitors LLP, said his client had been certified fit to return to work in September 2020 by a consultant doctor who wrote that it would be “in Roy’s interests to resume on light duties”.
Mr Sheahan said in evidence that he spoke with the company’s managing director Dan Curtis about returning to work and was told he would be put on a site in Ashtown, Dublin 15, until he got training which would allow him to work on a job at Dublin Airport where he expected lighter duties.
“It was terrible, I was driving the dumper and I had to lift all the manhole covers over to the dumper,” he said.
He said the company’s safety manager Trevor Murtagh, who was present at the hearing, had seen him doing heavy work on the site which he said included lifting tactile paving slabs and working with a concrete saw.
“Trevor was out on site and I showed him. My hand goes purple in the cold,” Mr Sheahan said.
He later described warming his hand in the exhaust gases of machines on site to bring back blood circulation, which he said he did “50 to 60 times a day” during that period.
Mr Sheahan said that in November 2020 he texted his employer, Mr Curtis, complaining about the “heavy work” and asking about moving to the airport site.
He said the response was that he would be transferred but that the move never came.
Mr Sheahan said his right hand had become “very sore” from his efforts to work one-handed.
He said there was further text correspondence with the safety manager before he eventually wrote to Mr Curtis on 24 December that year stating that the heavy work was “not one bit good” for his hand, adding that he had “two bad hands now”, and was resigning.
Cross-examining Mr Sheahan, solicitor Fiona Egan said the specialist doctor’s note of September 2020 stated the complainant was “free to pursue unrestricted work activities” and that the reference to light duties was as an “initial lead-in”.
“I wasn’t doing this type of work until I started [there]. I was driving a dumper,” Mr Sheahan replied.
“I would say I had a good relationship with Dan over the years. He helped me out with my boxing in 2018, sponsored me, said he’d sponsor me again,” he said.
He said Mr Curtis had been due to meet him face-to-face the week but never came to the site, and that after that he had arguments with the safety officer, Mr Murtagh.
“I could have walked out the very first day I came back after they wanted me to do that work,” he said.
“I said [to Mr Sheahan] whenever I can get you into the airport I’ll get you into the airport,” Mr Curtis said in his evidence.
He said he had told the foreman at the Ashtown site: “Make sure Roy is only on the dumper” and that he had not been made aware that Mr Sheahan was doing any other work.
The tribunal heard the site foreman had not made himself available to give evidence.
“I am genuinely a good friend of Roy’s. If I didn’t want Roy back to work I wouldn’t have taken him. I got letters to say he was ‘unrestricted’. To me I thought I was doing everything right,” Mr Curtis said.
“I just feel it’s very unfair. I feel I’ve done my best to make sure Roy was well looked after. I’ve been in business 50 years, never had a claim of constructive dismissal. I’ve never dealt with one before,” he added.
The construction group’s safety manager, Trevor Murtagh, said he had spoken to the complainant during safety audits at the site in the autumn and winter of 2020.
He said Mr Sheahan “missed his old site, missed his old buddies, missed his few bob he was getting in overtime” but that the complainant had never raised an injury as an issue.
“It goes against my training and my job to ignore something like that, stupid. I’d have noted it in my audits,” he said.
Cross-examining the witness, Mr Kinsey noted that the company had submitted copies of safety audit sheets up to November 2020, but had not the sheets for December or January.
“You’re assuming I should have been there in December,” Mr Murtagh said.
After taking submissions on mitigation of losses, adjudicating officer Valerie Murtagh adjourned the hearing to consider her decision in the matter, to be delivered in writing to the parties in due course.