‘Sweet Harte, Bitter Society’ by Dr. Conor Hogan

Sweet Harte, Bitter Society by Dr. Conor Hogan

The story of Mickey Harte, Tyrone’s successful Gaelic football manager is a bitter sweet one. Having led his teams to victory in three All-Irelands, five Ulster titles, one National League, and nine Dr. McKenna Cups , Harte knows the upside of life. Still, he also knows the darkest of days too.

Having lost one of his ace minor players, Paul McGirr in 1997, when he died after an accidental collision with the Armagh goalkeeper in the Ulster minor football championship and then experiencing the pain of another player, Kevin Hughes’ double loss of siblings from road traffic accidents, things began to turn morbid for Mickey. Then, in 2004 his senior player, Cormac McAnallen, lost his life at only 24 years of age following a sudden cardiac problem. Still, the bitterest pill had yet to be swallowed. This came in the early days of 2011 when his beloved daughter, Michaela McAreavey, was murdered whilst on her honeymoon in Mauritius. So, it`s fair to say Mickey Harte knows a thing or two about loss too.

Now, Mickey sees that improvements are needed in society.

At a recent event for Health and Well- Being for the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Mickey spoke of how society needs to change in some quarters. Harte spoke of how, in his current role of being the Tyrone football manager, there is the onus on him to be a leader and that “it`s great to be in the business of influencing society…this is what the GAA can do in Ireland”.

Speaking of how society needs a change he stated that “…to be able to motivate people in society” “…[ ask yourself] what can I give, not what`s in this for me”.

Harte spoke about how people are critical to the axis of a good society and that their energy is vital. “We need to have people who have a zest for life” he said, as he emphasized that every person needs to realise they must thrive in being part of a community, and to be acknowledge that being part of something that is bigger than oneself is vital. For Mickey that bigger thing is God, in his life, as he noted “ the more Good morning ‘ God’ people we can have, the better”.

At the GAA`s inaugural Health and Well- Being conferences, he heralded the sporting organisation for it`s good initiative. Since it`s real inception in 2012, the GAA Health and Well-Being sector have noticed trends from their attentive members. A notable example here is that the Health and Well-Being sector in Croke Park have had at least 30 enquiries from clubs who have reported having critical incidents annually.

Of course, societies are made up of diversity. Yet, Harte feels that this can be simplified into two types of people. “There are only two types of people in life, an energy giver or an energy sapper”. Re-emphasising his love for God but by also making a point about how society can improve, the Tyrone managed noted that people need to listen twice as much as talk, as that`s why they have two ears and only one mouth!

By reiterating the importance of good communication further in complimenting how many new ways of communicating there are, not least the online media, the Errigal Ciarán clubman feels that being present in another`s company is a compliment to a person. Being with a person and giving of your time breeds an interdependence as he gripped “we are often in a rat race, but even if you win, you are still a rat!”

Good company, through listening and being present, compliment a person and this leads to skills that foster leadership which improves society in the main. This, duplicated by complimenting people when the do something well builds better relationships.

Relationships within his teams obviously need his stable leadership, but he remarked that players and other adults who aid him within his role are vigilant to the feelings of others as they observe peoples` moods and conversations for the better of the collective.

As the sweet side of Mickey`s heart quipped in summarizing how proper communication and leadership can improve society, he summed it all up by saying “As the old Chinese proverb says `the person who doesn’t smile shouldn’t open a shop`”

Mickey Harte has been that smiling person for so long now, it`s time for society like the customers in a sweet shop to echo his empathy.

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