Mickey Harte's life-long friend, Fr Gerard McAleer, last night paid tribute to "a beautiful young woman" who had never been happier.
Fr McAleer, who baptised Michaela 27 years ago and officiated at her wedding less than two weeks ago, spoke of her love for the GAA, her pride in her family, and her joy at beginning married life with her husband, John McAreavey.
"I knew Michaela from the day she came into the world on the last day of the year in 1983, I baptised her. I have seen her grow up.
"I watched her go to primary school, go to the convent and go on to be a teacher.
"I have seen here grow into a very beautiful young woman, intensely interested in the GAA, intensely proud of her family, intensely proud of her mum and dad, very, very well adjusted, just somebody you could be very, very proud of.
"I'm stunned, we use words like this at times of intense tragedy, words like unbelievable," he said.
Fr McAleer concelebrated the wedding Mass along with the groom's uncle, Bishop John McAreavey, in St Malachy's Church, Ballymacilroy, on December 30, an occasion that brought untold happiness to Michaela.
"I never saw her happier than she was on her wedding day. She was radiant. She couldn't have been happier.
"The family were saying to me how proud she was that day, content, looking forward to the future.
"It was a happy day for everybody," he added.
It was Fr McAleer's friendship with Mickey Harte that saw him develop a deep interest in Gaelic football coaching and management.