Stepping down never on my mind, says Harte

Mickey Harte says he never considered quitting as Tyrone manager in the wake of his daughter Michaela’s tragic murder last year.

The three-time All-Ireland winning boss was at Croke Park yesterday to promote a November 3 football clash at Casement Park between Donegal and an Ulster selection.

It’s hoped the Belfast venue will draw a crowd of around 30,000 and proceeds will go to The Michaela Foundation, an organisation set up in memory of the Tyrone woman to inspire positive values in youth.

Speaking at yesterday’s event, Harte admitted that coping with the loss of Michaela in January of 2011 may have slightly affected his ability to manage the county team.

But asked if he ever thought of relinquishing the role of team chief, he insisted it was never an option.

“Absolutely not, it never ever entered my head,” said Harte. “I’m grateful for the privilege of being able to stay there and do that job because it is a great distraction, a great diversion, a great way of looking at life.

“Life must go on.

“Yes, things are different. It will never be the same. But there are people around us, there are opportunities around us that will help us through.

“The GAA, the position I’m in and being able to work with players at this level has been a huge source of positive force for me and for our family.”

Michaela was murdered in a Mauritius hotel room while on honeymoon with her new husband, John McAreavey.

Former Down footballer McAreavey was also at Croke Park yesterday and listened as Harte spoke of the radiant smile that Michaela would be wearing at the thought of the good work going on in her name.

Michaela was also a huge follower of Tyrone football and Harte pointed out how much her passing affected individuals players on the panel.

“I wouldn’t like to lean on it or use it (as an excuse), but I do believe for the last couple of years, not only has this had an impact on us as a family but it has had an impact for the GAA players of Tyrone that I work with.

“A lot of those people knew Michaela very well. You can never quantify how does it impact on them, just like we go back to the loss of Paul McGirr, the loss of Cormac McAnallen, it doesn’t be over when it appears to be over. There is lingering consequences of having to make your way through those experiences.

“I have no doubt it had its impact but I wouldn’t want to use that as a reason as to why we didn’t perform to our best.”

Asked if the harrowing episode affected his own ability to manage the team, Harte conceded that may have taken away from his focus.

Tyrone were defeated by eventual champions Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final while, this year, they were undone by Kerry in the qualifiers though they were without a string of star players due to retirement.

“It’s hard to quantify these things,” said Harte. “On reflection, you might say all of these things (the grieving process) take away from your energy source to deliver where you want to go.”

Harte confirmed that newly crowned All-Ireland champions Donegal will bring their strongest possible team for the November 3 tie.

“The only proviso is that the Donegal final is on the next day so, obviously, whatever two teams are involved in that, there will be a few players that will not be able to play but the rest will be there,” said the Errigal Ciaran man.

“It will be an opportunity also for some other players that didn’t get as much game time this year to get a good competitive match because we’ve ensured them that’s what it will be.

“In terms of Ulster, it will be the best possible Ulster selection we can get. There may be a few limitations with clubs involved in the Ulster club championship but, outside of that, we’ll be putting out the strongest possible team we can. Joe (Kernan, Ulster manager) has been on the case. Everybody wants to represent Ulster and they certainly want to represent them in this special occasion. It is a unique occasion. It is football, plus more.

“It’s amazing what’s unfolding before our eyes. This is really going to be a serious event. It’s not sort of something people hope will maybe happen — it’s something that is going to be made happen.”

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