Michaela McAreavey's husband John pays tribute to GAA family for its support
John McAreavey has paid tribute to the role his local GAA club has played in his life since the murder of his wife Michaela nearly a year ago.
Mr McAreavey, a member of the Co Down club Tullylish, has written an eloquent tribute to the sports organisation in the Down Year Book.
Michaela, daughter of Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, was found dead in her hotel room on January 10 in Mauritius. The couple had married just two weeks beforehand and were on honeymoon at the time.
John writes: "I have been able to experience the greatness of the organisation that is the GAA much deeper than I would have ever wished to imagine."
And he adds: "In a hopeless situation, the GAA stood tall and reached out to support one of their own."
He lauds in particular the part that Tullylish has played in helping him in his bereavement.
"They have been great in treating me in exactly the same way as before the tragedy, with my team- mates insisting that they will not spare me from the obligatory slanging and banter at training and at matches," he writes.
"At Tullylish, my fellow club members embraced Michaela as one of their own. They made her feel welcome and Michaela often remarked how she felt at home within our club. She really was excited about settling into my parish. For this reason alone, I will always be grateful to my club."
Michaela (27) had been among the Red Hands' most enthusiastic supporters, never missing a game and regularly joining her three-times All-Ireland winning father on the touchline in the immediate aftermath of games.
While still exhibiting her unswerving loyalty to Tyrone, she had become closely involved with Tullylish through her unstinting support for John, never more so than when the team won the Down Intermediate championship title last year.
Now John maintains that being involved with either Tullylish or Down means that "worries and anxieties can be left behind for a short period and I can focus purely on the game I love".
But he acknowledges that as the first anniversary of Michaela's death approaches he still faces what he says is "a hard road".
"I will continue to rely on my family and friends, my faith and my whole GAA network. I wish to thank all the people of Down and beyond for their support."
Down chairman Seamus Walsh has confirmed that the GAA will continue to stand "shoulder to shoulder with John" as 2012 looms.
Two men, Avanish Treebhoowoon (29) and Sandip Moonea (41), are due to stand trial in Mauritius next year accused of killing Michaela.