DAYS ahead of what should have been his first wedding anniversary, Tullylish footballer John McAreavey has expressed his thanks to the people he said helped him following the tragedy of his wife’s murder almost 12 months ago.
John, who married Michaela Harte in her home parish in Tyrone in December 2010, said he was overwhelmed by the genuine support he felt from across the GAA community in Ireland - but especially from his own club in Tullylish.
The grieving widower paid tribute to his friends and teammates at the club who have been there to support him since the young schoolteacher’s murder at the idyllic Legends Hotel in Mauritius where the couple were celebrating the second part of their honeymoon in January.
Two people were formally charged with Michaela’s murder earlier this month and it is understood John will be called to testify as a witness during the trial which is expected to take place in the new year.
Writing in the Down GAA Review of 2011, John - who had bought a home with his wife in the Roes Hill estate in Laurencetown - said the support of those closest to him in the club where he grew up has sustained him throughout the year.
“Back in January of this year, I was able to experience the greatness of our organisation much deeper than I would ever have wished to imagine. The response to the tragic death of my wife Michaela was both incredible and overwhelming.
“In the presiding months, I really felt that genuine support across the whole of Ireland, but no more so than here in my own county. My own club, Tullylish, have been great in treating me exactly the same way as before the tragedy, with my teammates insiting not to spare me from the “slagging banter” at training and matches.
“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 excitd about settling in my parish. For this reason alone, I will always be grateful to my club.”
John said the sport he loves has become even more important in his life since Michael’a death - providing a brief distraction from the realities of everyday life.
“I have come to notice how remarkably peaceful it is to kick a ball around the field with my friends,” he said. “Be that with Down or Tullylish, it’s the one time when life appears to stand still, where worries and anxieties are left behind for a short period of time and I can focus purely on the game I love.”
John said he looks to the future in the knowledge those who have supported him thus far will remain at his side.
“I undoubtedly have a very long and hard road in front of me, one that will require me to draw on every resource I have, to somehow learn to live with the events of January 2011,” he said. “My family and friends, my faith and my whole GAA network that I have mentioned will be relied upon. In this hopeless situation, the GAA stood tall and reached out to support one of their own. I wish to thank my club and all the people of County Down and beyond for their genuine support and prayers.”