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24-hour GAA marathon to set world record and raise cash in memory of Michaela McAreavey

By Staff Reporter

Published 09/11/2016

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and daughter Michaela celebrate winning All-Ireland final at Croke Park in 2003
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and daughter Michaela celebrate winning All-Ireland final at Croke Park in 2003
GAA stars Kieran Hughes, Mark Bradley and Peter Harte launch the Marathon Match
John McAreavey with Michaela on their wedding day
John with Mickey Harte

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has appealed to Gaelic footballers to help break the Guinness World Record for the longest match in history - and raise valuable funds for the charity named in his daughter Michaela's honour.

The 24-hour Marathon Match will take place on January 7 and 8 at the Tyrone Garvaghey GAA Centre with teams from two charities - Cancer Focus and the Michaela Foundation - going head to head.

Harte helped establish the foundation in memory of Michaela after the newlywed was murdered in Mauritius on her honeymoon in January 2011.

Her husband John McAreavey, who played Gaelic football for Down, was left devastated after the slaying of his 27-year-old wife in their hotel room.

Michaela was found in the bathroom of their suite at the five-star Legends hotel in the resort of Grand Gaube.

Unknown to the couple, a sinister network of thieves was operating in the resort, obtaining dummy key cards to enter hotel rooms without being identified.

On the day of her murder Michaela and John sat by the pool, where they ordered something to eat from the restaurant.

After lunch Michaela ordered tea and decided to go back to their room to get a biscuit. John waited for his wife to return for 15 minutes - but she never did.

He then made the grim discovery.

The death of the Irish language teacher sparked international media coverage - as did the botched murder trial that followed.

Hopes were high that justice would be served when a number of suspects were arrested in the months after the killing.

But in July 2012 those hopes lay in tatters when two men charged in connection with the murder were acquitted by a jury after just two hours.

The Mauritian police was criticised, with many accusing investigators of a bungled probe from the outset.

Vital forensic clues were either missed or ignored, potentially key witnesses were not interviewed, and Michaela's heartbroken husband was held for five hours by police immediately after her death.

In the aftermath John found comfort in his strong religious faith and the support of his family and friends.

He threw himself into charity work in the Michaela Foundation, and eventually found new love with Tara Brennan from Kildare, who he married in September. John, chairman of the Michaela Foundation, said: "The response to Marathon Match has been exceptional.

"We're delighted to have the backing of our main event sponsors O'Neill's and the high calibre managers and coaches already involved, not to mention the amazing facilities at Garvaghey that Club Tyrone have so kindly made available to us.

"Now all we need are the players to fill our jerseys, so we're urging anyone who is interested to get in touch and help us achieve a Guinness World Record."

Harte added: "I'm delighted and honoured to be associated with such an amazing and novel event and can't wait for the throw-in.

"We're looking for male players aged 18 years and over from across Ulster and Ireland who would like to play a part in this historic game."

Players will not be expected to play for the full 24 hours, as world record adjudicators Guinness permit the use of six substitutes on a roll-on, roll-off basis.

"This is still a huge feat and will require two full squads of 42 players to lighten the load on other players and break the world record," the three-time All-Ireland winning Tyrone boss added.

Eoin Treanor, community fundraiser with Cancer Focus NI, added: "The Marathon Match is an ideal event for anyone who loves GAA, wants to become a Guinness World Record holder and wants to help two local charities raise much-needed funds.

"We're calling on anyone who would like to take part to contact us as soon as possible to register their interest in being part of Gaelic footballing history."

The Michaela Foundation aims to support and inspire young people in Ireland to lead happy and fulfilled lives without limits.

It organises summer camps and other initiatives for young people that encourage the practice of the values that Michaela, her family and friends hold dear, such as the Irish language, faith, fun, wellbeing and fashion.

Anyone interested in taking part can contact the Marathon Match team by emailing fundraising@cancerfocusni.org, by calling 028 9066 3281, or by visiting the Facebook or website pages of Cancer Focus NI and the Michaela Foundation.

Applications to play in the game close on Monday, December 14.

Belfast Telegraph

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