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Rivals united in poignant GAA guard of honour for slain bride

Players from Tyrone and Down football teams will stand shoulder to shoulder as they provide a guard of honour at the funeral of slain bride Michaela McAreavey.

The gesture will be a fitting tribute to the staunchly proud Tyrone woman whose teenage predictions of success for her father's team famously came true with All-Ireland glory.

The Down players will join their rivals in a display of support for their grief-stricken team-mate John, who is still struggling to cope with his wife's appalling murder.

This afternoon, as Michaela's body is brought on the long journey from the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius to her home in Ballygawley, extensive preparations were under way for Monday's funeral.

In the picturesque church of St Malachy's, close to the Harte family home, the signs of the couple's wedding day celebrations, two weeks ago, were everywhere.

Still blooming, the beautiful white lily arrangements Michaela and John had bought for their big day remain in place at the altar.

The Christmas Advent wreath and a large crib provide a splash of colour, a reminder of the festive season that now seems a world away from the horror that has engulfed the community this week.


Bishop John McAreavey, who celebrated his nephew's dream wedding to Michaela, will return to the same tiny church on Monday -- for her funeral. Over 1,000 mourners are expected to descend on St Malachy's for the 12.30pm funeral.

Outside, teams of workers tidied the roadway, clearing pathways and arranging parking.

Parish Priest Fr Michael Seery said efforts are being made to erect a marquee and also a large TV screen in the car park so that the Mass can be relayed to the congregation outside.

The local GAA club Errigal Ciaran has also swung into action, with club members working a rota system to provide constant assistance to the Harte family and effective stewardship outside the house on the Glencull Road. Poignantly, the funeral Mass will be presided over by Bishop McAreavey. He will be joined by the Harte family's life-long friend Fr Gerard McAleer, who baptised Michaela.

While arrangements for the funeral Mass are still ongoing, it is expected that it will include contributions from people associated with all aspects of Michaela's life and career.

Meanwhile, the close-knit Co Down community where John McAreavey planned to live with his wife will unite at Mass tonight.

Mass will be offered for the murdered honeymooner and her heartbroken husband in St Colman's Church, in Lawrencetown, at 7.30pm.

A book of condolence will be opened in the community centre this afternoon and at the church this evening.

Tullylish GAA club organised the Mass after an outpouring of grief in the small townland where Michaela (27) and John (26) had bought the house.

The pair, who were inseparable, had been looking forward to spending the rest of their lives together following their dream wedding, a day before Michaela's 27th birthday, on December 30.

Today, however, Mr McAreavey is returning to the home today with his wife's remains in a coffin.

He is being accompanied by his dad, Brendan, brother Brian and Michaela's brother, Mark, on the journey from Mauritius. All four are said to be in a state of shock and struggling to cope with Michaela's murder.