Tuesday 21 November 2017

Kerry candles will burn bright for Mickey Harte

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Kerry and Tyrone is so much more than a football match. For Mickey Harte and for all of us.

There will be many even in heartland of the Kingdom who will cheer for Tyrone. The sympathy and affection for Mickey Harte knows no boundaries.

If we're beaten in Killarney this evening, all of us will back Tyrone for the rest of the summer, but for now we will roar for our own beloved Kerry.

Don't tell Mr Ahmed.

Mr Ahmed, a renowned throat specialist, told me a persistent hoarseness was down to mucus seeping from an old battle wound of a broken nose.

Indeed I remember the blow only too well. It was at a carnival game in Moyvane, the Rio of north Kerry. The murderous corner-back who hit me with a kango of an elbow declared it was all a terrible accident -- it was my brother Conor he was after.

This evening we will do our best to keep quiet, but championship fervour has ruined more throats than Woodbines.

All of Ireland will cheer themselves hoarse for Mickey Harte.

He knows what it takes to beat Kerry. This will be four in a row in championship games if Tyrone win.


Tyrone desperately crave victory on our sacred turf and a win by playing classy football. Once that first All-Ireland was wrought from a mix of graft, guts, skill and puke too, Mickey has always kept an eye on the history of style.

Tyrone will try to run Kerry off the pitch and out the gate up into the Macgillicuddy Reeks, a well-known retreat for a beaten Kerry team.

Referee Dave Goldrick has a tough job. Goldrick is one of the best refs in the game, despite the occasional human lapse. He is also one of the fairest and has no favourites.

But now Dave has to referee a saga of a game between the two fiercest rivals in the GAA, and the background is everyone everywhere would love for Tyrone to win this one.

All we want is fair play. Yes we did get a refereeing break against Westmeath in Mullingar last Sunday, but that was as rare as a sunny day in summer.

The neutrals for Tyrone among you will claim I am biased.

Yes I am Kerry and always will be. I will not join in the criticism of our team and manager.

When I started to write this column more than 10 years ago, I promised I would never down my own county.

We are up against it this evening. There isn't much confidence behind the team within Kerry. Gallant Westmeath were desperately unlucky. Kerry only played for 10 minutes but I believe we can win, if we multiply 10 by seven.

Kerry are seldom underdogs. It's almost a luxury for us.

Never mind the bookies. Their odds are accountancy-based, to offset the flood of money on Kerry to win the All-Ireland.

In the hearts and minds of Kerry people, Tyrone are hot favourites. Yet Kerry have always given their best when they are unfancied.

Our friend Kieran Donaghy, of Tyrone ancestry, has been written off by those two well-known footballers on the ditch, all and sundry. Expect a big game from the big man this evening, for that's the nature of the fierce pride in jersey and self that epitomises the hero from Tralee town.

I'm sure Mickey Harte would approve of such loyalty. He has played with and managed county and club for all of his life.

No man has ever been more welcome in our county.

He will, as usual, stand quietly by the edge of the dugout with a cognitive finger under his jaw as he calmly analyses the fury before him.

Part of his magic as a manager is that he distances himself from time and place. But I am sure there are long nights when Mauritius is only too near and January is today.

Mickey would swap every All-Ireland ever played for one hour with his beloved Michaela but that will come too, in time, and many more hours with it. And that will be the joyous meeting.


We are torn in Kerry by an undying loyalty to the Kingdom and the love and respect we hold for this mighty man who in so many ways has brought such dignity and honour to his beloved Tyrone and has inspired all of us, in every jersey.

Mickey must keep the tragedy that befell his lovely daughter separate from football. He has to, but the goodwill and sympathy we all carry for the bereaved families has become an intrinsic part of the emotional consciousness of a nation.

There will be candles burning brightly in Kerry windows tonight to light Mickey and Tyrone safely home and a prayer will be said in every green and gold Kerry heart for the Hartes and McAreaveys.

Yes this is more than a game. It is a manifestation of solidarity and sympathy for two GAA families torn by events outside of their control.

Two families we in the GAA desperately desire to put back together again.

Irish Independent

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