Mickey Harte hasn’t had to just contend with the death of his daughter Michaela, as well as the more mundane disappointment of four semi-final defeats since last guiding Tyrone to an All-Ireland final — he also had a brush with cancer.
Speaking in an extensive and honest interview which runs in tomorrow’s Irish Examiner ‘Weekend Sport’, Harte talks about how he was diagnosed with bladder cancer in early 2015 and received ongoing treatment up until last December, when he finally got the all-clear.
Harte missed only one game with the condition, Tyrone’s final league game of that 2015 campaign when a draw at home to Kerry wasn’t enough to avoid relegation.
At the time, his absence was attributed to him undergoing a “surgical procedure” but it turns out it was to remove cancerous cells in his bladder. He then had to undergo extensive treatment for 30 months.
That was a tough year , that year,” says Harte. “A very tough year. Thanks be to God it got discovered in time and I got it removed.
“Then I got treatment, like chemotherapy, only it was directly into my bladder, it didn’t go through the whole body. But then it wasn’t working the first time around. And then it didn’t work the second time around. I remember being up in Belfast and them telling me there’s a 66% chance of it working the first or second time but after that it goes down to 18%.
Thanks be to God though, that third time, it worked. So I didn’t have to get the whole bladder out and get a reconstruction done. If I had to get it done, I’d have been out for two or three months and it would have been the end of my football career, no doubt, so I have so much to be grateful for.
Harte, by his own admission, was under “enormous pressure” during that 2015 season, with Tyrone being relegated from Division 1 and entering a fifth year without an Ulster title.
With Tyrone having just won the U21 All-Ireland title, there was a growing sense within the county that his tenure as manager should come to an end, with Harte describing it as “a bit of a purge on from certain quarters to get rid of me”.
Had he needed more surgery on his bladder, it would have undoubtedly been a tipping point, ending his association with managing Tyrone county teams since 1991.
Instead, he took Tyrone to the All-Ireland semi-final that 2015 season,and since then has either guided the county to an Ulster title (2016, 2017) or an All-Ireland final (2018).
During that time, he received regular maintenance treatment which finished at the end of last year.