Northern Ireland

Mickey Harte: A life of triumph marred by tragedy

Mickey Harte
Image caption Tyrone gaelic football manager Mickey Harte

Mickey Harte's time as manager of Tyrone gaelic football teams has seen unprecedented success for the county, but also great tragedy.

The Ballygawley man has guided the senior team to three All-Ireland titles, winning its first ever Sam Maguire trophy in his debut season in 2003 - defeating Ulster rivals Armagh.

They would repeat that triumph in 2005 and 2008, both times defeating Munster giants Kerry in the Croke Park final.

Harte has also led Tyrone to four Ulster titles and one National League.

The former pupil of Omagh Christian Brothers School, who was born in 1952 and became a teacher, also represented his county as a player between 1975 and 1982.

Harte was appointed manager of Tyrone minors (under-18s) in 1991 and guided them to victory in the Ulster minor championship two years later.

However, tragedy hit the team in 1997 when player Paul McGirr collided with the goalkeeper of another team.

Mickey Harte helped stretcher him off the field, but he died that evening.

Vowing to win the all-Ireland minor championship in McGirr's memory, Harte achieved that honour in 1998, and was named manager of the county's under-21s a year later.

Image caption County captain Cormac McAnallen died in 2004

He guided the Under 21 team to two All-Ireland titles and three Ulster titles.

Harte's success meant it was no surprise that he was named senior manager in 2002 after the departure of Art McRory and Eugene McKenna.

The team regained the National Football League title that April, defeating Laois in the final, before their historic victory against reigning champions Armagh in the All-Ireland final.

But tragedy would strike the county again a year later when its young captain Cormac McAnallen - a former minor teammate of Paul McGirr - died suddenly due to an undetected heart condition.

At the time Mickey Harte spoke of his shock at the tragedy.

"It's simply unbelievable and no words could explain what has happened," he said.

''He was just a gem of a man, and it's going to be very difficult to pick up the pieces.''

In October 2008, Harte was hospitalised after suffering a broken rib, as well as cuts and bruises, after his car left the road and crashed near Carrickmore.

The following year the Tyrone legend, who is also a member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, wrote his autobiography 'Harte'.

In the book Harte wrote of his daughter Michaela: "She loved her football.

"She was with me and my Tyrone teams from the beginning, helping with little jobs at training sessions, shredding tissues and rosary beads in the stands during matches."

Speaking after news of Michaela's murder in Mauritius, Father Gerard McAleer, a life-long friend of Mickey Harte said: "She would be the first person he would hug when that final whistle would go."