A Co. Limerick farmer was left in a pool of blood after he was viciously assaulted by a trespasser, in the latest shocking incident of rural crime in the country.

Tom O’Donnell, aged 60, was moving his cows across a public road on the outskirts of Kilmallock when he was punched and knocked unconscious.

He is now contemplating having an iron bar beside his bed and in the boot of the car for future protection. He has spoken publicly on behalf of other farmers who have been affected by crime and are living in fear.

Crime is rampant. The minority are intimidating the majority. Every time a farmer walks out into the yard we are looking over our shoulders. These people are going on our land with their lurchers and massive torches shining in every direction to lamp hares, rabbits, foxes and even cats.

“We give a shout and they only laugh at us,” said Tom.

At 7.30pm on Tuesday, October 22, Tom was feeding silage to a bull in a shed. He explained: “I saw a light in the field, at first I thought it was lightning. Then I thought it might be fireworks but fireworks wouldn’t come up this far.

“I jogged over. I saw a figure in the moonlight and heard a dog. He was about 90 feet away.

I shouted, ‘You piece of s**t, keep running you rotten f****r’… I went back as I had to move the cows from one field to another across the public road.

The single dairy farmer drove his car down the road to move his cows for the night.

“He was standing at the gate with his dog. I had a headlamp on. I said to him: ‘You were on my land’. He said: ‘Prove it’…Everything was ‘Prove it’.

“We were in the middle of the road. He came closer to me. He pushed a big torch into my face and I brushed it away twice with the back of my hand. I wasn’t aggressive, I didn’t slap it to the ground. I don’t know why I didn’t do that. I should have,” Tom added.

He remembers the assailant had the torch and lead for the dog in his left hand, leaving his right hand free.

“We were exchanging ‘compliments’ and the next thing, I woke up on the ground in the middle of the road in a pool of blood. I thought what am I doing here? How did I get on the ground? It happened so fast I can’t remember the punch.

“I don’t know how many seconds I was unconscious for… He left me on the road. If a car came I was a goner,” said the farmer.

As it was pitch black he didn’t see what the trespasser was wearing but describes him as “a short, fit looking young man with short brown or blonde hair”.

I got up in a rush in case a car would come. I went in front of my car to protect myself from traffic. I steadied myself. I was pumping blood from my nose.

Despite the shock, he still moved his cows across the road before sitting into his car. He rang a friend who contacted gardaí and other friends and neighbours, one of whom is a nurse. They all arrived within minutes.

Tom was taken to University Hospital Limerick at 11:00pm. He was there until 7:00am of October 23, and was back again that afternoon for an x-ray. His nose was broken but the cheekbone was not fractured. He also has a black eye and a gash on his nose.

Following the frightening assault, Tom says he is doing OK.

I’m contemplating having an iron bar beside my bed and in the boot of the car for future protection. This is going to bug me for the rest of my life.

“Every time I come out into my yard day or night – and especially at night as l live beside the town – I am going to be looking over my shoulder.”

Gardaí from Bruff were at the scene in minutes and have launched an investigation.

According to Tom, the “only way” to tackle illegal trespassing on farms is “more Gardaí on foot patrol in towns and villages”.