LAST night, Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe should have been the life and soul of the party at an important family celebration.
His brother Alan is due to get married in June and his fiancee's family were travelling over from London so that the two sides could get better acquainted. A dinner planned for last night never took place.
Instead, Adrian's loved ones were plunged into mourning after an unthinkable disaster.
An air of stunned disbelief hung over the village of Kilnaleck in Co Cavan yesterday.
At Crosserlough GAA club – where Adrian had played football at every level – hailstones lashed the clubhouse where he had celebrated after playing a key role in the club's under-21 victory in 1989.
Adrian's father Hugh is still vice-president of the club, while Adrian's brother Martin is involved in the under-16s.
"Straightforward disbelief and devastation," he said of his reaction to the tragedy.
"Everyone is completely numb – but what we're feeling is completely insignificant in comparison to what the family are going through."
He recalled Adrian as "one of the nicest fellows you'd ever meet. Great fun".
From the age of 15 or so the football player had easily stood six-foot tall and had carried his height with confidence. That was what had made him such a good football player, said James.
Looking back, he said it was obvious that Adrian would join the force, given the strong family connections within An Garda Siochana.
"I would have been most surprised if he hadn't," he said.
Adrian had loved his work and had loved Dundalk where he had made his home, he said.
Anna McCabe, chairperson of the Crosserlough club, said she and a number of the club members had just come from the family home.
"The family are numbed – there are no other words to describe it," she said.
"They're a fantastic family and are very close. It's terrible to see them going through this."
Parish priest Fr Patrick Brady broke down in tears during a Mass on Saturday for Adrian and his family in the parish church of St Patrick's in Kilnaleck. "It was just sinking in at that stage," said Anna.