Tyrone's McKenna fixtures to go ahead
Tyrone will honour their Dr McKenna Cup obligations this weekend and beyond, despite the heavy shadow of Michaela Harte's tragic death hanging over the county.
A devastated Mickey Harte met with Tyrone officials at his home yesterday evening and gave the green light for the team that he has built and shaped over the last eight years to play in Ulster's pre-season competition, which they have won four times under his management.
Tyrone, whose opening match against Donegal was postponed last weekend, are due to play Fermanagh at Brewster Park on Sunday.
Last night's planned training session was cancelled but the squad will meet tomorrow night and train under the direction of Mickey Harte's assistant Tony Donnelly and team trainer Fergal McCann.
The pair have been the only members of the back-room team since 2005 -- they were present for the second of the three All-Ireland successes. There are no plans to bring anyone else on board, even in a temporary capacity.
It had been speculated that the weight of the tragedy of Michaela's death would see Tyrone opting out of the competition; this possibility was alluded to in a Tyrone County Board statement issued on Monday night when the situation was "under review".
But unless funeral arrangements dictate otherwise, Tyrone's fixtures will go ahead this weekend and beyond.
"These are the wishes of Mickey himself," said Tyrone County Board spokesman Damien Harvey. "Fergal McCann will take the training and unless there is a funeral on Sunday the game against Fermanagh will go ahead."
A Tyrone county executive meeting was expected to approve that position last night. Peter Canavan, Tyrone's All-Ireland-winning captain in 2003 and their greatest ever player, summed the reaction up in Ballygawley yesterday when he said he was still waiting on someone to tell him that "it wasn't true".
Canavan, an Errigal Ciaran club- mate of Mickey Harte, said that judging by the "messages and texts from Gaels all over the country they are in shock".
Sean Cavanagh, Tyrone's 2008 Footballer of the Year, reflected on the prominence of Michaela Harte during those All-Ireland triumphs.
"The one memory that will stick with me of Michaela was at the end of our All-Ireland final wins. Those three All-Ireland wins were the happiest days of our lives and every time you turned to Mickey, Michaela was beside him. They were hugging each other with tears in their eyes."
In a poignant twist of fate, Mickey Harte has developed an unofficial role within the GAA as a man to be called upon by clubs who have to deal with unexpected deaths within their ranks.
His powers as a motivational speaker and his compassion have led him to many GAA clubs throughout the country in such circumstances. He has used his experiences of dealing with the death of two of his players, Paul McGirr in 1997 and Cormac McAnallen in 2004, to good effect.
"I think everyone is aware just how compassionate a man Mickey Harte is and the role that he plays," said Eamonn McEneaney, the current Monaghan manager, yesterday.
"Everyone knows what he is and the success he has had within football but outside the sphere of football he is an exceptional man too.
"I've known people he has called upon in hospital and at their homes, people who have been sick or down and he has called upon them with encouraging words. It is so terrible that this has happened to him now."