John McAreavey and Mark Harte faced a traumatic ordeal this year when they were projected into the global spotlight during the trial in Mauritius of two men charged with the killing of John’s wife Michaela who was also Mark’s sister.
Now the duo will team up again to confront a new sporting challenge following Mark’s appointment as manager of the Tullylish club.
And with John restored to the role of captain, the team, which will compete in Division Two of the Down All County League, is hopeful of making a strong bid for promotion.
It was in 2009 that John led Tullylish to the Down intermediate championship title, his performances earning him inclusion in the senior county squad.
This year, of course, he was immersed in the Mauritius trial and then took time out to undergo knee surgery.
He is currently following a rigid rehabilitation programme but expects to be fit for the start of the Down league.
The success of the ‘Match for Michaela’ last month has further fired his enthusiasm and confirmation of Mark’s appointment as manager has evoked considerable optimism within the go-ahead Tullyish club.
Mark will be joined by Adrian O’Donnell as coach in what will be a high-profile backroom team.
“The GAA family has been a superb help to our family and the Harte family and now it’s great to be looking forward to getting back out onto the pitch with Tullylish again.
“Mark coming in as manager is a great boost for us,” says John.
Mark of course has served Errigal Ciaran and Tyrone, managed by his father Mickey, with considerable distinction in the past and has since acquired a fresh reputation as a coach.
Tullylish secretary Gerry Roberts believes that the combination of Mark as manager and John as captain can help fire the club to new heights next year.
“John has been a tremendous clubman all along the line and we are glad to have him back as captain,” says Roberts.
“Mark is coming in as manager and there is a terrific sense of anticipation as we await the new season.
“Our aim will be to maybe try and finish in a top four position in Division Two.”
The Tullylish outfit absorbed a heavy blow two years ago when the four McCartan brothers — James, Daniel, Eoin and Charlie Pat — left to join Burren.
“Three of them were in the Down squad then and that tells you something of the calibre of the players we lost,” points out Roberts.
“But thankfully we now have a raft of younger players coming through and I have no doubt that Mark and Adrian will get the best out of them.
“We will be giving them every possible support in their endeavours.”