Hughes' Views

It's remarkable how many people will reply 'seven' if you ask any group what their favourite number is.

But Tyrone folk, especially those whose names begin with Mac – or Mc - can be forgiven for thinking there's definitely nothing lucky about it. Mickey Harte surely won't because he has been remarkably close to three of the greatest tragedies to befall O'Neill county teams.

Dromore teenager Paul McGirr died a few short hours after sustaining the ultimately fatal injuries on the pitch in an Ulster Championship match against Armagh in 1997. Move on seven years to 2004 and Cormac McAnallen died from an undetected heart condition while asleep in bed in his home in Brantry. And now, a further seven years later, and his daughter Michaela has been murdered many thousands of miles away - just ten days after becoming Mrs.McAreavey.

The man who has steered the Red Hands to three Sam Maguire Cup triumphs in just five years must have felt nothing worse could ever happen when young McGirr was so tragically injured in a purely accidental collision with the opposition goalkeeper. How could he know what was waiting just around the corner?

The world of Tyrone GAA was plunged into mourning again and this time the whole country shared in the grief after the 24 year old Eglish player, who had proudly lifted the McKenna Cup just weeks earlier. The mourning was widespread and once again people found it difficult to comprehend how or why such a tragedy should be visited upon such good folk.

Again Mickey Harte was the man who managed the county team of which the player was such an integral part. And, once more, I'm sure the Ballygawley man will have tried to gain some solace from thinking that misfortune and tragedy would never ever get any worse than this.

But even the almost unbearable pain experienced by Harte, the family, playing colleagues anf officials and the deceased countless friends back then was overtaken by the nationwide grief sparked by the news that spread like wildfire around the county, and quickly the country, eight days ago – although it now seems to some as though it was a lifetime ago.

In common with so many of those who have found the news of her death in such incredible circumstances, I'd never had a conversation with the young woman but, in spite of that and, I suppose, simply because of her tremendous high profile, I almost felt I knew her well. We probably all did.

It would be a waste of time for me to try to describe the tragic ending of the life of the girl who had just reached the tender age of 27, an unimaginable set of circumstances that have shattered the world of the Harte and McAreavey families who had been happily and proudly united by the marriage of two fine young folk days earlier.

From a very early age I've believed that, while our lives are not mapped out in advance, I'm convinced that the beginning and end of our earthly existence are pre-determined by our maker and we are given the freewill to decide how we travel the often rocky road from start to finish.

For me that perhaps explains a tragedy that otherwise defies logic. How, when the young folk who didn't even get to share their married life until the completion of their honeymoon sat down to choose the destinations for their first holiday as a married couple, did they manage to select the Legends Hotel in Mauritius?

They had the whole world to choose from, countless thousands of five-star hotels in amazing places through the globe would have been just as appealing an attraction. The fact that they had opted to spend half their honeymoon in Dubai even backs that theory.

Throw in all the other ingredients, not least going to the room for some biscuits at precisely the wrong time and having her wonderful life cut short in an incident that seemingly was planned as nothing more than a petty theft, and it really was such gross misfortune. That makes it exceedingly difficult to believe it could have happened to anybody, never mind the daughter of a man whose life been blighted so horrifically in the past by sudden death in tragic circumstances.

And perhaps the worst aspect of it all is that Mickey Harte cannot even turn this time to his treasured daughter to share his own personal grief.

I know I haven't always lavished compliments on the Glencull man but I have admired how he has coped and behaved in the face of terrific adversity.

If anybody is geared to bear the colossal pain that has been visited upon his family, it's him.

I pray they all have the strength to do so, even though their world will never ever be what it was.