20 years on, tragic GAA star's legacy burns bright
The 20th anniversary of the tragic death of Tyrone GAA player Paul McGirr will be marked this weekend with a novel cycling event, aiming to visit each of the county's 54 GAA clubs.
Paul (18) suffered fatal injuries after accidentally colliding with a goalkeeper during an Ulster minor championship match in June 1997.
This weekend's cycling event is aimed at raising funds for The Spirit of Paul McGirr Trust, set up in his memory.
Working alongside the SMA Fathers based in Dromantine outside Newry and Friends of Africa, the trust has raised funds and recruited volunteers to work in St Theresa's Parish in Lusaka, Zambia.
They have helped build a community centre that is part medical clinic, a pre-school that provides care for orphans along with adult education, computer literacy classes and a variety of workshops.
The death of Paul McGirr profoundly shocked the Ulster GAA community and his team-mates went on to win the Ulster Championship but were beaten in the All-Ireland minor final.
Managed by Mickey Harte, they came back the following year to win the All-Ireland, and Harte led many of McGirr's team-mates from that day to the Sam Maguire Cup three times in the next decade.
Mr Harte told the Belfast Telegraph: "I will never forget it, but of course, who will ever forget it? That's life. It's challenging. But I do believe that spark of something in Tyrone that I am not sure would have happened otherwise. That minor team, although they did not win the All-Ireland, they really grew in stature.
"What they did and how they carried themselves from that day forward really was the core of why Tyrone have been as successful as they have been since. I firmly believe that."
Mr Harte's daughter Michaela was murdered on her honeymoon in Mauritius in 2011. Her family later set up The Michaela Foundation. He said positives can be taken from charity work.
He added: "What else can you do? Things are going to be as they are and we can't change that. So all we can try to do is change something as a result of that. To do something positive is very rewarding for people who are closely related to Paul such as his family, his friends in Dromore, people who played with him.
"I think it is right and fitting that we can associate something positive even from the darkest of times and maybe that's the way of the world too, that God has us all designed to deal with things that in their own human capacity are just too difficult to understand.
"There is no understanding with our human mentality, but if we raise ourselves to a higher level and believe that He has a greater plan and design for all of us, then sometimes there are very strange ways He teaches us that."
- Further information is available at www.spiritofpaulmcgirr.org