Writer and Author

The Latest Story of the Celtic Cubs

So we’re on the second day of evidence.  Finn Colclough with an address on Waterloo Road in the one postal address that has become a shorthand for an entire way of being and living, Dublin 4, stands accused of the murder of Sean Nolan, with an address in Fairview, an undeniably less swanky area.

It has all the hallmarks of a trial that will attract a lot of media attention.  Here in Dublin there’s always been an immense rivalry between North and South.   Even merely hearing the charges read out as the jury were sworn in on Monday it sounded like a tragic example of a rivalry that has perhaps become slightly less intense since the property boom meant people started moving anywhere they could afford a home.

Now we’ve heard a couple of days of evidence a different more complex story is emerging.  At the time of his death, Sean Nolan was 18.  He had spent the night of May 25th 2005 out with friends celebrating the final end of school.  The evening started with a mass to send all the final year pupils of St Joseph’s CBS School in Fairview on their way.

Then came a couple of drinks in the local pub, Smyths.  Nolan and a classmate, Ciaran Wogan then headed off to Bar Code nightclub in Clontarf.  It being a fine Saturday night and the evening still young, they got a taxi back into town and ended up in Reds on O’Connell Street where they met up with another school friend, Eric Treacy.

As the evening wore on there were several more changes in venue.  The lads went to Eamonn Dorans pub but were refused entry.  Then they tried the Q Bar but were unsuccessful there as well.  Eventually they went back out to their home turf and tried to get back into Bar Code but the time had flown and the doors were locked so Leeson Street was the next drunken stop.

But the experience was rather a disappointment and the trio moved on after trying a couple of different places.  Nolan said he knew a girl on the Waterloo Road and suggested they look her up.  Unfortunately it was approaching four in the morning at this stage so unlikely to be a good idea.

Meanwhile, Finn Colclough and his friends and family had been to a 21st birthday party in the Spy nightclub by the Powerscourt Townhouse in the southside city centre.  Finn had dressed up for the occasion wearing a ruffled green satin shirt and a black hat with a red flower in it.  Despite being under age he managed to get completely rat-arsed on the free bar that was serving cocktails to the party goers.

Once the club closed, the party moved back to Finn’s house at 71 Waterloo Road.  His parents went up to bed, his brother Anthony and a few of his friends holed up in the brother’s room working through certain relationship problems Anthony and his girlfriend were having.  Finn and two of his friends stayed down in the basement kitchen, used by his mother Alix to run cookery classes.

The crime scene photographs show a cheerful room dominated by a large table covered in a cheery red and white oil cloth.  Red and green plates are on the top of the dresser and the cookery school is hinted at by an impressive stove, two sinks and an impressive array of knives and other kitchen utensils.

Finn and his friends were just having a laugh, making themselves sandwiches, listening to music and dancing around.  There was some dope lying around so a joint was rolled and Finn went outside with a female friend to smoke it on the steps of the house.  The evening reads like an episode of the Channel 4 series Skins.

After a while they decided to take a walk and enjoy a bit of night air.  Finn has been described walking down the road carrying a couple of cans of Right Guard deodorant.  It’s unlikely they were for reasons of personal hygiene.

That’s when the evening took a turn for the worse.  Finn and his friends ran into Sean Nolan and his friends.  Sean asked for directions to the house of the girl he was looking for, a Sarah or Sara.  They knew who he was talking about but the younger trio were scared by the older lads boisterousness and ran back to the house.

Instead of moving on their way, Sean and friends stopped to try and get the wine open.  Ciaran Wogan, realising the younger three had taken fright thought it would be funny to run up and knock on the door.  Taunts may have been shouted or a corkscrew may have been requested but what happened next would change everyone.

Finn had grabbed one or two knives from the kitchen and now ran out of the house brandishing them.  Sean wasn’t the kind of guy to walk away from a threat and stepped forward to argue the toss.  There was a short scuffle and suddenly Sean fell back clutching his chest.  Within the hour he was dead and Finn Colclough was facing trial at the Central Criminal Court.

So this week the two families come together for the first time.  Finn sits in court every day his head hung, staring at his hands.  His hair is no longer the long, dirty blond badly plaited dreads that have been described in court and he’s lost weight since his initial arrest.  His parents sit with him as the evidence continues.  His brother and his friends sit in the public seats silently listening to the events of the night being told again and again.

The Nolan family sit on a bench behind the barristers, dressed every day in black.  His mother Charlotte fights back tears as her sons last moments are lingered over time and time again.  Her jaw is set and she takes deep breaths as each witness takes the stand but the tears arrived for the first time today as an ambulance driver told how Sean had fought for breath as paramedics tried unsuccessfully to save his life.

It’s easy to hear events described and see them as a thirty something whose days of watching the sun come up from the wrong side are a too distant memory and feel judgemental but looking back to a less responsible time I remember taking 4 a.m walks after a long night out or being in company where it was decided to look someone up whose family were distinctly unimpressed by being greeted by a rowdy welcome long before the dawn chorus.

Hell, I’ve been the one whose doorstep people have turned up on.  I’ve also in more recent times sat in numerous companies where the passing of those reckless days has been mourned and only occasionally winced over.  It’s easy to snort about the excesses of the Celtic cubs but has that much really changed?

The tragedy of this night in question was the way it ended.  Instead of everyone involved waking up some time on Saturday craving a fried breakfast and nursing hangovers Finn Colclough was sitting in a garda station and Sean Nolan would never have another morning.  Once all the evidence has been heard the jury will have to decide whether Finn Colclough murdered Sean Nolan or not.  Whatever the verdict two families will have to live with the effects of that night forever.


  1. brainstein

    why the fuck would you provide a link to the mother’s cookery class??

  2. Abigail

    For information. And any further comments using abusive language will not be approved.

  3. idunno

    Do you not think that 10 years is very little time for taking someones life!!!!! sean was a great guy and didn’t deserve it! ok immature actions on the night didn’t help but nobody deserves that and if you are brave enough to pick up knives and approach someone with them, then take their life. i think you are brave enoug to do life!!!!!!!

    • Abigail

      idunno: I know that it can seem unbelievable that someone who is convicted of killing someone doesn’t get a life sentence but Finn Colclough was not convicted of murder, he was convicted of manslaughter. That verdict doesn’t carry a fixed sentence and so the length of jail time is at the judge’s discretion. However, judges cannot pick a number out of the air when it comes to these sentences. They are bound by strict rules that govern the length of time that can be imposed. Factors that have to be taken into account include previous convictions, aggravating factors like the level of aggression (for example in a case where the deceased was stabbed multiple times) and mitigating factors (which would include the circumstances of the accused – and I don’t mean the fact that Colclough came from Dublin 4). Even when the judge has imposed a sentence it still has to be passed by the Court of Criminal Appeal if the accused decides to appeal his sentence. The average sentence for manslaughter is roughly 7 or 8 years. In those circumstances Colclough got a sentence at the tougher end of the scale and there is every possibility that if his case goes to appeal his sentence will be reduced.
      I know this case has upset a lot of people and that Sean Nolan was much loved, but the issue of his death was decided in an Irish court and any sentence was governed by those laws.
      I’ve spoken on this blog in the past about Irish sentencing laws and I do think some of them are far too light but without a change to the law Finn Colclough got an adequate sentence.
      I write about this trial as a writer. I might have an emotional response to what I observe in court but ulitmately I don’t know the people involved so I am there purely as an observer. I can tell by the sheer numbers who arrive at this blog through searches for Sean or for the Colclough family that this is a case that continues to occupy people, and to hurt, but all I can do here is write about my impressions of the court proceedings based on my experience and knowledge of the proceedings. I’m not trying to annoy anyone, just to give a fair account of what happened in court.

  4. idunno

    I understand fully what your job is and I am in no way trying to get at you i was just asking the question. Finn killed Sean. He took his life. do you actually believe that Ocd could have influenced his actions that night!!! i reckon it was the alcohol, cannabis and inhaling right guard that influenced him!!!!!!!!! The defence threw that out in court to try and minimise his sentence. I sat in the court room while that evidence was held up…..it turned my stomach to think a lad at the age of 17 could do what he did without thought!

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