Harry Arter's triumphs and tragedy

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Arter showed courage to play against Man Utd last month
Arter showed courage to play against Man Utd last month

THE healing hand of sport has been offering comfort to Republic of Ireland midfielder Harry Arter amid the most desperate agony imaginable.

Just 48 hours passed between Arter being plunged into mourning following the tragic death of his daughter during childbirth and his decision to line-up for Bournemouth in a Premier League match against Manchester United.

With his team-mates donning black armbands for the match in honour of Arter and his family, their devastated team-mate turned in a staggering performance that helped to secure a famous 2-1 win against United.

The tears that trickled down Arter’s cheeks as he was substituted in the final minutes of the game sent a spine tingling surge of emotion around a packed stadium, which shared a piece of the kind of pain no one should ever suffer.

In this Sunday World interview, Arter suggests the call for him to play against United was among the easiest he ever made, as he opens up for the first time about the most traumatic month in his life.

“It was a case of just getting through Christmas for me and my family and the matches I had to play with Bournemouth really helped in that respect,” begins Arter. 

“This has been a terrible time, obviously, but as I reflect on it now, playing football was great for me over the last few weeks.

"You could see the emotion when the Man Utd match ended and then everything flooded back to the forefront of my mind, but you can focus on the game when you are out there on the pitch."

There are no words to describe the despair Arter and his partner must have felt as they sat down for Christmas dinner, or as Harry acknowledged his 26th birthday on December 28th.

Of course there would have been no celebrations. This is not a time for such joy, but Arter appreciates the love that has flowed in his direction.  

“It has obviously been a horrific few weeks for us as a family, but I have to say that the way so many people in football has rallied around to give me support has been fantastic,” adds Harry.

“There was a temptation to say nothing about this and try and keep it private, but people would have found out, so it felt like the right thing to do to let the club announce it and then everyone was aware of the situation.

“I’d just like to thank everyone for the kind messages that came my way in the days and weeks after.

“It shows that the football world has a heart and it was great to see.” 

A New Year offers up a fresh start for all and while the agony of the final month of 2015 will forever linger for Harry and his family, his upbeat tone as he looks forward confirms his sporting fire is still burning brightly.

While his ambitions are focused on Bournemouth's battle to stay in the Premier League, he also has his sights set on a place in Ireland's Euro 2016 squad after some sparkling displays in the Premier League of late.

"I want to be part of the squad and hopefully my performances for Bournemouth are being noticed," adds English-born Harry, who won his first senior Ireland cap against England last June.

"The lads did so well to get us through to the final next summer and I would love to have a role to play if possible.

"I knew it would be tough for me to break into the team as there are a few players in the Ireland side who have established themselves in the team over the last few years and they deserve to be there.

"All I can do is carry on playing for my club and hopefully impress the manager when I go over the Ireland matches in March."

He also believes Ireland should be confident of making an impact at the Euro 2016 finals next summer.

"People will have taken notice of the results we had in the qualifiers," he adds. "Beating Germany and then seeing off Bosnia in the play-offs was a great effort.

"There is no reason why we can’t do well at Euro 2016. If you can beat the world champions, you can beat anyone. We should remember that next summer."

You can only admire Arter for the courage he has shown in the face of such agony in recent weeks. If anyone deserves success in 2016, it's this young man.