Wednesday 13 December 2017

I learned what is really important in my life - Arter

Harry Arter, training with the Ireland squad: David Maher/Sportsfile
Harry Arter, training with the Ireland squad: David Maher/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

For Harry Arter, this season has been unforgettable in more ways than one but as he prepares for one final push that would seal his ticket to France, far more important matters off the pitch mean that he is prepared for both outcomes when Martin O'Neill announces his 23-man squad on Tuesday.

In a year when the 26-year-old played in the Premier League for the first time as well as making his international debut, it should have been one that he looked back on as one of the happiest of his career but instead it was overshadowed by the loss of his and his fiancée's baby girl Renee who tragically died at birth.

Two days later, Arter starred as Bournemouth beat Man United 2-1 in the Premier League.

An Achilles injury ruled him out of Ireland's friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia which denied him the chance to add to the only cap that he won against England last year.

O'Neill, however, has seen enough in Arter to give him every chance of proving his fitness ahead of the Euros and one wonders had injuries not been such an issue, would there be any debate at all about his place in the squad.

The midfielder played through the pain and with one eye on the summer, rushed his return - a decision he says he would not make again as it jeopardised his Bournemouth team-mates.

The physical pain may have eased but for Arter, the emotional trauma of losing a child is something that he knows will stay with him forever.

"I still am grieving," he admits. "I don't know really when you would stop. I'm happy to talk about her as if she's existed, like you guys would talk about your children.

"It's amazing how many people come to the light. Some people don't want to talk to about it, which is respectable.

"I'm more than happy to talk about her, it makes me proud that people are talking about her. Like you guys, I'm sure you want to talk about your kids in the same sort of light.

"I learned about what is really important in life. As I sit here today, my most important thing is family, making sure everyone is healthy, making sure my partner is okay.

"I learned lot about myself really. You grow up quite a lot. I wouldn't say I was immature but I'd like to think I've matured since then.

"Football was something that helped me a lot at that time. I'm passionate about football and when you have passion you can focus. Lucky for me, I have that.

"The support from family and friends were key. In the first couple of days it was nice we had a worldwide support which we did as a couple and family, which was credit to everyone. As time went on, family was crucial for my happiness. Hopefully I can do her proud.

"I have her picture on my phone which I look at every day. To me, she's lived, she's been with the world and she's been a positive influence on my life, and other people's lives too.

"Lucky for me I have a passion for football, other families who don't have anything else. I'm sure the devastation would take over their lives. I've seen it to a degree.

"When I go into training every day, I'm fully focused, very professional in that sense. For the two days after, when we played Man United, my focus was purely on football. Then I turned my attention to her (Renee)."

The courage that Arter has shown in recent months has been remarkable and he has since raised funds for 4Louis - a charity which provides an invaluable support service to bereaved parents that experience stillbirth, neo-natal, infant and child loss.

A tattoo with Renee's name and the date 10-12-2015 is a constant reminder of his cherished daughter and, as he puts it himself, "I never need motivation but if I do, she's there."

By his own admission, Arter felt like his chance of making the Euros squad had been and gone when he missed the two friendlies in March.

He returned for Bournemouth's recent games against Everton and West Brom as the club cemented its place in the top flight but given his lack of experience on the international stage, he knows that he has a point to prove to O'Neill.

"It's down to how I perform here with the lads," he says.

"I'm very inexperienced in the sense of international level so I've got a lot to prove to the manager and I'm more than happy to do that challenge if I get a chance against Holland, any game time, or any training is a window for me to try and do well."

Arter is indeed likely to be given enough game time in tomorrow's friendly against Holland to stake his claim but he knows that if the call from O'Neill doesn't come on Tuesday, he has the mental strength to bounce back from a setback that would pale in comparison to what he has had to go through in the last six months.

"Of course it would hurt me, yeah," he maintains.

"It would be a disappointment but I have had bigger disappointments in my life so I am fully prepared for both outcomes. I will take massive confidence from even being considered and take it into next season."

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