Harte tragedy: Michaela's last interview reveals dreams and hopes for the future
In her last-ever media interview, Michaela Harte told Sunday Life she was looking forward to starting a family with her new husband John McAreavey.
‘If I can be half as good a wife and mother as my mum, I will be very happy’‘ - Michaela.
As his only daughter, Michaela had a very unique place in the heart of her father Mickey, who is also dad to three fine sons
In an interview with the Sunday Life just months ago, the vibrant 27-year-old daughter of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte spelt out her hopes for the future.
Michaela was on top of the world last March as she talked to the Sunday Life about her plans for her wedding, her future as John’s wife and her special bond with her dad Mickey.
In every area of her life she seemed to be enjoying perfect contentment and had no grand ambitions beyond being a good wife and mother.
“I just want to be happy,” she said. “I want to be a good wife and please God and hopefully be a mother one day. As long as everyone around me is happy that makes me happy.”
And while she was known for being at her father’s side after Tyrone matches, she said that she wanted to be just like her mother Marian.
“If I can be half as good a wife and mother as my mum then I will be very happy,” she said.
Michaela and John met while studying at university in Belfast and after being together for three years he proposed during a romantic weekend in Paris in December 2008.
Michaela was obviously very much in love and like any bride-to-be couldn’t wait for her special day.
While talking about her December 30 wedding, Michaela described it as a family day.
“I’m really looking forward to having a Christmas wedding,” she told Sunday Life. “It’s going to be a big family wedding with about 250 or 270 guests as our family is so big.
“Family is a big part of both our lives and having everyone with us on our big day will make it very special. It will be a traditional family wedding and daddy will of course be giving me away.”
Her comment was a reference to the close bond she had with her father Mickey, the manager of Tyrone.
In the poignant photographs published here, which were taken by Sunday Life during an earlier interview, that
bond is clearly evident as Daddy’s Girl Michaela enjoys a cup of tea with her father and a stroll together by the Harte family home.
In 2003, when thousands of GAA fans at Croke Park celebrated Tyrone’s All-Ireland victory, Mickey famously pushed his way through the crowds to find his daughter.
A devoted fan, Michaela was a loyal supporter of Tyrone and never missed a Championship match.
She explained: “When daddy became manager of the under-18s in Tyrone I was only seven and then he went on to manage the under-21s in 1999 and the seniors in 2003,” she said.
“In all that time I never missed a Championship match, because it meant so much to him and I just wanted to be there. I have three brothers and growing up, the whole family was involved in football, even my mum, and we would have gone to the socials in our local club in Glencull.”
Michaela had once predicted the tremendous wins for Tyrone, but she confessed she felt embarrassed about the attention it brought from the media.
She explained her ‘prediction’ happened after the tragic death of Paul McGirr, the young Tyrone minor player who died in 1997 after accidentally colliding with a goalkeeper during an Ulster minor championship.
Mickey had helped carry the 18-year-old from the field on a stretcher.
“In 1997 when Paul McGirr died on the pitch, it was a terrible shock and after that dad was thinking of giving up but the players persuaded him to stay,” Michaela said.
“I remember coming home that night and it was not a prediction so much as a wish-list and I wrote down when the minors would win and then the under-21s and the seniors.
“I had been with dad every step of the way from the minor league games right through to the seniors, celebrating the highs and also obviously the lows as well, when they lost.
“I was so proud of him and I just had the feeling that they were going to win in 2003. When they did, it was amazing. I
felt so very, very privileged to be there and to see it.”
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The following year it was Michaela’s turn to represent her county.
After accepting an invitation to take part in the local heat of the Rose of Tralee, she did Tyrone proud when she won it and later took the Ulster Rose title.
“I remember going to represent Tyrone and I didn’t even tell my brothers,” she recalled.
“I just brought mummy and daddy and kept the whole thing very low key.
“When I got through to the final as the Ulster Rose I was amazed at how generous the sponsors were.
“I got loads of new outfits for everyday wear, evening dresses, jewellery and lots of new shoes. It was fantastic.
“I had the time of my life but the biggest thing that came out of it for me was my friendship with the Dublin Rose who asked to be a bridesmaid at my wedding.”
It was not just love of sport that united the Harte family. Like both her parents, she became a pioneer and also followed her father into teaching.
The pair even shared their graduation when Mickey accepted an honorary doctorate for services to Gaelic football on the same day his daughter graduated with a BA in Education at Queen’s University. After graduating, Michaela secured a post as a teacher at St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon, where she set up a pioneer group to inspire other young people.
She said: “My parents set the example to me and I took the pledge not to drink for life at my confirmation when I was 11. I am delighted that 45 students aged from 11 to 15 have joined the group in school and taken the pledge not to drink alcohol until they are 18.
“We meet once a week at lunchtime and the whole idea is to have fun. As a young teacher I want to be a positive role model and let these young people know that there are other ways to have fun rather than drinking alcohol.”
Even though John played for rivals Down, it meant a lot to her that he shared her interest in Gaelic football.
She said: “He shares my passion for it and it is a big part of his life as well. He has come to some of our games and of course I have been to some of John’s games.”
Asked if she would be supporting Down after she got married, she laughed but was adamant: “No, definitely not,” adding: “I will continue to support daddy and John as well.”
The family’s great faith helped sustain them last week and faith was something which Michaela referred to often during her interview.
She said: “I’ve always liked communicating with people and my faith is very special to me and I really do enjoy teaching religion and spreading the Catholic faith.”