Yesterday, the GAA community was rocked by the news that Derry inter-county player Aaron Devlin had died in hospital after contracting an aggressive form of meningitis just last week.
The 23 year-old, Ballinderry Shamrocks clubman took ill after a club challenge match last Friday evening and was rushed to Antrim Area Hospital, where he was put on life support. However, after a short but brave battle, Devlin lost his life yesterday.
Devlin was a gifted footballer, who represented his county at minor, u-21 and senior level. He also won four Derry Senior Football Championships with his club Ballinderry Shamrocks and in December, 2013, Devlin helped his club to an Ulster Senior Club Championship title.
The Devlin family released a touching statement about their loss and the impact Aaron had had on all in just 23 years.
“Following a characteristically hard-fought battle with a sudden illness, our son, brother and friend Aaron has left us. This has been an unimaginably tough and dark time for us – and will continue to be.
“The actions, words, prayers, kindness, and support from so many people has genuinely touched us. We may never be able to thank everyone for it, but please know that it has helped us realise just what an impact he made on this world in just 23 years. We have gained so much strength and pride from it.
“We now hope that the many memories Aaron has given us will help us through the challenge that we must now face together.”
Derry GAA also released a statement, issued by a spokeperson on the extreme sadness of the situation.
“It is difficult to comprehend the devastation that the Devlin family and the wider community of Ballinderry must be feeling at this time.
“This tragedy will be sorely felt throughout the Derry GAA family, and on behalf of all our players, officials and members, at home and abroad, we wish to extend our heartfelt sympathy to Aaron’s mother Carmel, father Eugene, sister Anna, and brothers Ronan and Coilin.
“We also offer all our condolences to the members of Aaron’s club, Ballinderry Shamrocks, his local community, his team-mates, and his many friends and colleagues.
The outpouring of tributes from across the country has been huge. Players, fans, clubs, colleges and counties have issued touching statements and paid tribute to the Ballinderry native via social media.
— Colm O Neill (@crossbar13) July 30, 2015
It is with a deep sense of sadness that we learn of the death of Aaron. UUJ has lost a player and a friend, a… http://t.co/a9tRNWjBO3
— Jordanstown GAA (@JordanstownGaa) July 30, 2015
Aaron Devlin RIP. What can we say but – thanks – for being a gentleman and contributing so much to your school. You will be always with us.
— StMarysMagherafelt (@StMarysGSM) July 31, 2015
In this sad time, the GAA has united in grief. As a sporting organisation, not many come close to the level of togetherness, respect and compassion displayed by fellow members. The GAA is a truly unique and special organisation.
Solas síoraí ar a anam uasal.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena