Tyrone County GAA supremo Mickey Harte told the trial of former minor football star Sean Hackett, who shot his father dead, that the teenager was “a very quiet, unassuming, lovely young gentleman”.
The Tyrone manager, who led his county to three All-Ireland championship wins, told Dungannon Crown Court that he couldn’t “say a bad word” about 19-year-old Hackett, either from afar, before knowing him, or after he met him, “face to face”.
Asked if he’d found the former minors’ county captain “cold and uncaring”, Mr Harte said he had found him to be anything but that.
“He was very warm and very caring, totally opposite to that description,” he added.
Earlier he had described Hackett, who denies murdering his 60-year-old father Aloysius in the driveway of their Aghindarrah Road family home in Augher, on January 4 last year, as a “very talented” GAA player, “one of the best players in his age group”.
Mr Harte said he had his “eye on him” as a future senior county player and that Hackett, both as a club and county footballer, had a “lot to look forward to”.
Alluding to the fact he had already captained the county minors, Mr Harte explained that such positions were not passed out on a whim and had to be earned.
Hackett, he said, had demonstrated signs and qualities of leadership, and that his team-mates would have looked up to him as their captain, and at a time when his team captured the Ulster championship that season.
However, following his glowing endorsement as a talented GAA player with a promising future, the court heard that Hackett himself was thinking of ways of getting out of the game, but realised he simply could not drop out of playing as it would raise too many questions.
The jury of six women and six men also heard his mind was just not in it, and he wanted to be on his own, and that it was “good” whenever he would receive a text message to say “there would be no training”.
On other occasions, Hackett reported that he “faked injury” to get out of training.
Although he went to the gym to do some training, it was not long before he showered and went off home.
Two top consultants who examined him in the aftermath of the shooting agree that Hackett knew the killing of his father was wrong. However, they disagree as to whether or not he was suffering from a mental abnormality leading to diminished responsibility for his actions and therefore the murder of his father.
The trial continues today.