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GAA charity match in memory of Michaela McAreavey enters record books

By Adrian Rutherford

A 24-hour charity GAA game has officially entered the Guinness Book of Records.

The Marathon Match raised more than £70,000 for Cancer Focus Northern Ireland and the Michaela Foundation, which was set up in memory of murdered bride Michaela McAreavey.

The match on January 7 and 8 at the Tyrone GAA Garvaghey Centre saw Cancer Focus NI and Michaela Foundation teams go head to head for 24 hours - a world first.

Yesterday it was confirmed the event had set a new Guinness World Record for the longest Gaelic football match in history.

Michaela's husband, John McAreavey, who chairs the Michaela Foundation, said: "I'm absolutely delighted for everyone involved that we have been officially granted this world record, not least our fantastic players who really had to dig deep, both physically and mentally, to ensure we could achieve this mammoth challenge.

"Being able to call yourself a world record setter is something very special and I'm very proud that we could do this for two great charities."

Michaela McAreavey, the daughter of Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte, was strangled to death at a luxury hotel in Mauritius in January 2011 - 12 days after her wedding.

The Michaela Foundation, inspired by her life and values, works with young people.

It organises summer camps and other initiatives that encourage the values that Michaela held dear, such as the Irish language, faith, fun and well-being.

Mr Harte offered his congratulations to those who took part.

"This truly was a team effort and I want to commend all those selfless volunteers, donors and the general public for their generosity which ultimately made this project such a huge success", he said.

Cancer Focus NI works with cancer patients and their families, including counselling and family support.

Roisin Foster from Cancer Focus NI said: "We are so impressed by this magnificent achievement.

"We are delighted that we will be able to help even more cancer patients and their families thanks to the generosity of those who made donations or were involved in this amazing event."

Kieran Kennedy, managing director of O'Neill's Irish International Sports Company, which sponsored the match, paid tribute to those who took part.

"The effort of the players was testament to their fitness and it was a supreme effort to raise funds for these two charities", he said.

No-one has ever been convicted of Michaela's murder. Last month John McAreavey returned to Mauritius to issue a fresh appeal for information.

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