GAA star Aaron Devlin dies a week after falling ill
A young GAA star has died in hospital after contracting an aggressive strain of meningitis last week.
Aaron Devlin fell suddenly ill last Friday night following a club game for Ballinderry Shamrocks, and was diagnosed with meningitis at the weekend.
Aaron's family, friends and the whole GAA community had been praying for his recovery, but the 23-year-old physiotherapist's condition continued to deteriorate.
In a statement issued yesterday, his family said they had gone through an unbearable time.
"Following a characteristically hard-fought battle with a sudden illness, our son, brother and friend Aaron has left us," said the Devlin family.
"Thanks Aaron, for the laughs, the tears, the smiles, the strength, the pride... for everything.
"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."
Tributes to the Ulster University postgraduate yesterday poured in from well-wishers across Ireland.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness led the tributes, saying: "Very sad to learn the awful news of the death of Aaron Devlin.
"My heart and sympathy goes out to the Devlin family, friends and Ballinderry GAC."
Aaron's club, Ballinderry Shamrocks, tweeted: "We are sad to inform that Aaron Devlin has sadly passed away, please continue to pray and support Aaron's family at this sad time."
Stephen McGeehan, Chairman of Ballinderry Shamrocks, said: "As a human being, as a physiotherapist, Aaron was a very caring young man. Ballinderry and Derry, Ulster, Ireland are all the worse off for not having Aaron around.
"Aaron always had a smile on his face - and we hope that he rests in peace."
Aaron had also played at county level for Derry. A GAA spokesman said the Derry GAA community was greatly saddened to learn of his untimely death.
"It is difficult to comprehend the devastation the Devlin family and the wider community of Ballinderry must be feeling," he said.
"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."
GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail expressed his condolences and those of the Association to Aaron's family. He said: "The tragic news of Aaron's passing has shocked people right across the wider GAA family. He carried himself with distinction both on and off the field and the messages of support since he fell ill were indicative of the upstanding character that he was.
"On behalf of the Association as a whole, I would like to express my sympathies to the Devlin family and Aaron's wide circle of friends and admirers."
Gaelic Players Association chief executive Dessie Farrell added: "A bright life full of promise has been tragically extinguished and our deepest sympathies go to his family, friends, county, club and college team mates."