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Documentary to recall life and career of Mickey Harte

TG4 will broadcast a special TV interview with Mickey Harte on Wednesday and Friday of next week.

TYRONE GAA senior team manager Mickey Harte is set to feature in a TG4 documentary as part of the Irish TV broadcasting company’s ‘Laochra Gael’ series.

Entitled ‘Laochra Gael: Mickey Harte – Unquenchable Spirit’ the documentary will be aired on TG4 on Wednesday, March 28 at 9.30pm and repeated on Friday, March 30 at 11.25pm.

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In the episode Mickey Harte talks of his journey from his fondly remembered rural childhood – surrounded by family, faith and lashings of home cooked food – to the pinnacle of GAA achievement.

He recalls the frustrations of his playing years during an era when ‘checkerboard football’ prevented him from fulfilling his potential as a pacey, mobile forward. But this wasn’t the only barrier to his progress.

He spent what might have been the best years of his county career in a footballing exile – player/manager with a Glencull team that played on a half size pitch, could enter no official club matches, or send any of their players to the Tyrone team.

On returning to the GAA fold Harte became manager of the Tyrone minor team and eventually guided them to All Ireland success. But only after an AIl-Ireland Final defeat, the death of star forward Paul McGirr, and the terrible trauma of the Omagh bomb blast – shortly before his team’s 1998 triumph.

In 2003, following two U21 successes Mickey crashed to national prominence as Tyrone senior manager winning League, Ulster and All Ireland titles in his first season. His unique tactical approach was famously branded “Puke Football” by analyst Pat Spillane – who has since had the grace to fulsomely eat his words. But Spillane was only one of many critics unimpressed by the mobility and commitment of Tyrone footballers under Mickey Harte – even after what was billed as “the defining game of the decade” saw Tyrone comfortably achieve their third All Ireland title in 2008.

And it wasn’t just on the pitch that he found himself embattled. Not a year went by but blazing headlines proclaimed yet another Harte controversy. From dissing the International Rules Series to supporting anti-contraception advocates, his opinions were always deemed newsworthy.

Yet while he might have courted controversy he still commanded respect. In the aftermath of the murder of his beloved daughter Michaela in 2011 Mickey rose above the tragedy – reaching out to others suffering the grief of bereavement. The pain of Michaela’s passing seemed to deepen rather than dilute his faith and a nation applauded his fortitude and generosity.

Since winning back to back Ulster Championships in 2009 and 2010 major trophies eluded Mickey until the 2016 Ulster Final sparked a Tyrone renaissance that still seems to be flowering. Mickey Harte’s football revolution may have been superseded by Donegal’s ‘system’ and Dublin’s ‘total football’ but Mickey is adamant he still has a contribution to make to the game he lives for.

The final episode in the new hour long series of Laochra Gael profiles a man who remains an inspirational figure – not only for Tyrone footballers and fans – but many people far beyond the four white lines.

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