And God save anybody having to go to this place.

How could you not be moved by the brief statement offered yesterday by Mickey Harte as news emerged of the death of his daughter Michaela whilst on her honeymoon in Mauritius. Anyone familiar with the GAA would have known her as a regular companion of her father on match days. She even accompanied him onto RTE’s The Late Late Show and he, in turn, proudly supported her as a contestant in the Rose of Tralee in 2004. An Irish language teacher at St Pats Academy in Dungannon, she had married John McAreavey, himself a Down senior footballer, on 30th December 2010.

Photogenic, intelligent and outgoing, she was very much part of the wider team around Mickey Harte as he managed Tyrone to 3 All-Ireland SFC titles in 2003, 2005 and 2008. To put this in the context of the non-professional, the demands this put on Mickey Harte’s time could only be met with the support of his family who, in so doing, were able to share many of the highs. Arguably, without the immediate and visible support of his family, Harte may not have felt able to stay at the helm and steer Tyrone to such successes and Marian, Michaela, Mark, Matthew and Michael were very much part of his own personal management team.

The typical demands include not just those of managing a football team, but also meeting the expectations of GAA clubs all over the country who request a visit from the All-Ireland winners, the trophy, the stars and manager. You only need to attend a typical club function where excited ten year olds fall over each other for a photograph with the Sam Maguire Cup and Harte or one of his team to realise the impact that the likes of Mickey Harte have had, and continue to have, on the community. That this time is given so freely, in all senses, makes it all the richer for those who benefit from it.

Unfortunately, Tyrone GAA circles have been too often touched by tragedies, such as the accidental death of Paul McGirr, a contemporary of many of the current senior panel, in a minor match in 1997 and the loss of Cormac McAnallen in 2004 to sudden cardiac death (which also claimed promising young Ulster rugby star John McCall the same year). McAnallen’s death shocked the GAA and the public in a profound way. Amateur sports stars attain much more esoteric and less worldly rewards than their professional cousins, indeed, many must also extend themselves to acheiving parallel successes in a non-sporting career just to pay their bills. The return on the considerable investment of their talents, motivation and time is measured in acclaim and affirmation rather than pounds, shillings and pence. For them to pass so long before their time puts their unrequited contribution to public life in stark relief. At the time of Cormac McAnallen’s death much of Irish society took its lead from Mickey Harte who, despite his own obvious grief, offered leadership and ultimately a fitting tribute in Tyrone’s cathartic 2005 All-Ireland success.

In the midst of the many post-match celebrations, as photographers were very quick to realise, Harte’s craggy, unshaven face was often softened by the illuminating and vivacioius presence of his daughter. For a man, and a family, who have offered so much, and so freely, the loss of such a light is an incomprehensible tragedy.

Yesterday Mickey, standing alongside his sons, offered these words:

Michaela was a lovely girl, a wonderful daughter, a brilliant sister for these boys and we will always treasure her. She was a beautiful girl. She couldn’t be better, couldn’t be nicer. God love her, we are so, so sorry.
We are equally sorry for poor John, her husband, whom she adored. He adored her. They did not get so long to share their lives with each other. It is such a shame. Our hearts are broken.
A lot of people have had this experience before. We have tried to empathise with them, but you can’t get the feeling unless you have been there. And God save anybody having to go to this place.
But we thank God for the people who are there, the support that is there and the prayers that are there. We know they are coming in thick and fast and it is so good at this time. We need that.
And we need the bit of privacy now. This is how we feel.

Go ndéanfaidh Dia tróchaire ar a h-anam.

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  • A great family tragedy, John, made so much worse when the young ones depart first. A friend of mine has hardly had a decent night’s sleep since her son was killed ten years ago; the nightmares live on.

  • Rocketeer

    Michaela Harte was such a beautiful, gentle, warm and vibrant young lady who was so deeply loved by her family and friends, and respected by the wider public. That such a wonderful human being should have her young life taken so cruelly and violently on her Honeymoon so far from home is heartbreaking. I simply cannot imagine the pain that her family and close friends are enduring at this moment and will continue to endure for the rest of their lives. When I watched the statement from Mickey Harte yesterday on the news I was struck by his immense dignity, courage and deep love for his daughter of whom he and his family so clearly adored. His statement was beautifully crafted, profoundly poignant and so effortlessly eloquent; it was a powerful and moving tribute to his daughter and a glowing testament to the goodness of her life. My thoughts and prayers are with the Harte and McAreavey families at this difficult and traumatic time. God Bless.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    This is indeed a tragedy that has touched us all in some way.

  • The Word

    FJH

    I second those sentiments. A real tragedy for all involved. My heart goes out to them.

  • Republic of Connaught

    An evil thing to happen to any poor girl on her honeymoon. The culprits should be hung.

    RIP.Michaela.

  • wild turkey

    rocketeer

    nail on head. an eloquent piece of writing, thank you for that.

    to experience the death of ones child is every parents ultimate nightmare.

    with his statement and conduct, mickey harte has given us all a lesson in decency and dignity.

    condolences and prayers to the family and all concerned. nothing more need be said.

  • Blue Hammer

    I have never followed GAA, and until this past tragic weekend had never heard of Michaela Harte. She must have been someone special to have inspired such a reaction to her loss.

    I was totally moved by her father’s dignified yet devastated response to his unbearable loss. It will live with me for a long time. Hopefully time will allow the family some sort of healing.

  • Greenflag

    Condolences to all the family and friends of Michaela – a young life senselessly snatched away . RIP

  • CW

    Sadly Mickey (and the wider Tyrone GAA community) are no strangers to tragedy. He lost two young players Paul McGirr and Cormac McAnallen during his managerial career, but losing one of your own children must be beyond words.
    Former Tyrone manger Danny Ball also lost his daughter in tragic circumstances, so at least there are others who have been through what the Harte family are going through now, although it doesn’t make things any easier.

    Mickey made his statement with incredible composure and dignity given the circumstances and had the good grace to point out that many other families had had similar experiences.
    Michaela RIP.

  • pippakin

    Horrific. I hope both families can come to terms because they are unlikely to ever fully recover. RIP Michaela a star shines brighter tonight.

  • Munsterview

    Machaela was a beautiful young woman in every sense of the word. She not alone reveled in GAA ethos, for all that met her she was that ethos. The GAA training and hard slog is still very much a male world save for the women teams and trainers etc. Ever so often in some regions, there are women who emerge as natural and accepted part of the men only part of the organization, who win the respect and regard of all.

    Machaela was one such person, all the old guard had watched her bloom from teen years and grow into a natural place in this tough male environs. All rejoiced and cheered for her in her Rose of Tralee participation. The recollections from other Rose contestants in over the last days all portrayed the same thing, a beautiful young woman that was ready to help every other contestant in every possible way.

    Machela was totally confident and at home in this ultra feminine world as she was tearing up and down the sidelines urging on her team. One had only to listen to the way she recited the Gaelic poem to know that this cultural world, like her faith, was a also a natural part of all she was.

    While Gaelic Ireland is sympathizing and emphasizing with the Harte family in this terrible grief, let us also remember in thought and prayer another father that lost his beautiful young daughter in equally horrible and arbitrary circumstances. That father’s dignity, compassion, forgiveness and the loss to that family and all such others should also be remembered by our Ireland at this time as we mourn the loss of Machela.

    A fine expressive piece of writing John, that that encapsulates the home part of the tragic event and situation.

  • redhugh78

    God be good to her and the families involved.
    Truly unbelievable after all Mickey Harte has been through with tragedies throught the years and now it has come to his own home.
    R.I.P Michaela.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Was just reading about the murder of a Lithuanian man in Dungannon, made me thing of what his family is going through too when you witness the grief of the Harte family.