Council take right step in postponing Tyrone clash
The Ulster Council’s Fixtures Committee at a meeting in Armagh last night decided that the Tyrone v Fermanagh Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup tie scheduled for Sunday should be put back until Wednesday January 26.
And the Monaghan v Queen’s match which had also been arranged for Sunday has now been brought forward to Saturday at Clones (2.00pm) meaning that there will be no fixtures played in the competition on Sunday.
It had initially been thought that the Tyrone v Fermanagh match at Brewster Park, Enniskillen would go ahead after Mickey Harte and his family had given their blessing to the tie.
Instead the Council’s committee took the view that now that Michaela’s remains will arrive at her home sometime later today — the house will be private tonight before her Wake takes place over the course of Saturday and Sunday — it would not be appropriate to go ahead with the match.
Yet even though the county board had confirmed on Wednesday that the Red Hands would fulfil the fixture, there remained an undercurrent of uncertainty within the county.
Indeed, it had even been mooted that the game would become the focal point for a massive display of public sympathy, but the Ulster Council, which hosts the McKenna Cup, stepped in to rule out the fixture.
Tyrone were due to train under assistant manager Tony Donnelly and Fergal McCann last night, but county PRO Damien Harvey indicated that there was ‘more discussion than training.’
Donnelly, a friend of the Harte family for 40 years and who had known Michaela since her birth, admitted that this has been an ‘unforgettable week’ for the county.
“This is indeed a traumatic period for Tyrone. No one could ever have scripted this. What we are witnessing is an intensely raw grief and it is important that people are given space in which to deal with it their own way,” he said.
Donnelly, a noted tactician who has been Harte’s right hand man for six years, is expected to be in charge of the Tyrone side for the duration of the McKenna Cup competition.
And Harvey stressed that ‘in all the circumstances’ it was sensible to defer the match until Wednesday 26.
“I think the Ulster Council have taken a logical step given the overall situation,” said Harvey.
Tyrone are due to meet UUJ at Healy Park, Omagh next Wednesday night and will then face Donegal on Sunday week at the same venue before completing their scheduled programme with that game against Fermanagh in Enniskillen on January 26.
The Council has also set new dates for the semi-finals. These will now be staged on Saturday January 29 with the final now re-fixed for February 12 — a fortnight later than had been initially planned.
Ulster Council officials remain optimistic that the weather will remain favourable and allow them to complete the competition within the new time-span that they have put together.
Pro Oliver Galligan said: “Obviously the fact that all of last weekend’s games were wiped out was a setback, but we now have altered our programme and we can hopefully take things on from here.
“We are well aware that the National League will be starting early next month, but I sure that teams that reach the semi-finals will be very keen to go all the way to the final.”
Meanwhile, legendary Tyrone forward Peter Canavan and his Errigal Ciaran club colleagues are preparing to play a huge role in helping to oversee Michaela McAreavey’s funeral arrangements.
The club has already put transport plans in place to facilitate the thousands of mourners who are expected to flock to the Harte family home over the course of Saturday and Sunday and shuttle buses will run from the main Omagh-Ballygawley Road.