Aaron Devlin remembered as "complete human being"
MOURNERS at Aaron Devlin's funeral yesterday heard the young Derry footballer described as a "complete human being" with "unassuming modesty".
The 23-year-old died on Thursday, days after being struck down with an aggressive strain of meningitis.
He played forward for his county side and for his home club Ballinderry Shamrocks, winning three senior football championships.
On Saturday at Brewster Park in Enniskillen ahead of the All-Ireland Minor quarter-final, the Derry side was joined by Longford players in observing a minute's silence as a mark of respect.
A minute's silence was also held at all games in Croke Park and across the country.
At yesterday's Requiem Mass in St Patrick's Church in Ballinderry, which was attended by up to 2,000 mourners, Fr Peter Donnelly described Aaron as a "very complete human being - a young Christian gentleman".
"His love of sport, his passion for Gaelic football, his skill on the field, his commitment as a team player have all been widely commented upon by people who know much more about that than I do," he said.
"But I know he was kind. His unassuming modesty, his love of his family, his loyalty to friends - qualities which pointed to something more. The mark of a man."
Fr Donnelly said the character formation which Aaron received at home and his schooling was apparent in all he did.
"His academic accomplishments at university, his entry into post-graduate studies at Ulster University - that all speaks, not just of aptitude but of diligence, of discipline, vision, drive and flair," he said.
Aaron had just completed a masters degree in physiotherapy and had started working at the Mid-Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt.
Ballinderry Shamrocks chairman Stephen McGeehan said everybody involved in the club and throughout the parish had endured an "excruciating few days".
"Every resource and every bit of energy has been focused on supporting and assisting the Devlin family in their time of grief," he said.
"The lesson that has been learned from this tragic episode has been the value of life and we now want to honour our friend and team-mate in the best way possible."
GAA president Aogan O Fearghail said the young footballer "represented both his native county Derry and his home club Ballinderry with distinction and was highly regarded across his native county and further afield".
Mr Devlin died after battling illness for almost a week with the popular footballer's family maintaining a bedside vigil at Antrim Area Hospital.
He is survived by his parents Eugene and Carmel, sister Anna and brothers Ronan and Coilin. Following his death on Thursday, the family paid an emotional tribute.
They said he had experienced a "characteristically hard-fought battle with a sudden illness".
"This has been an unimaginably tough and dark time for us - and will continue to be," they said.