'Thanks Aaron for the laughs, the tears, the smiles, the strength, the pride' - Family in touching tribute
The family of Aaron Devlin have issued an emotional statement thanking their son for all he gave them in his short life.
The Ballinderry footballer passed away this evening after he fell ill with an aggressive form of meningitis last week.
He played 40 minutes for his club against Dromore last Wednesday before being asked to come off due to tiredness.
The GAA world has united to pay tribute to the 23-year-old and his family have tonight released the following statement.
“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."
The GAA and GPA have both paid their respects to the Devlin family.
“Aaron’s death is an unimaginable loss for both his family and his community. Ulster GAA offers them and all Aaron’s many teammates our support at this difficult time and express our sincere sympathy on their loss,” read a statement from the GAA.
“People throughout Ulster and Ireland will remember Aaron wearing either the Ballinderry or Derry jersey as he graced each field with his youth, talent and skill. That is how he should always be remembered; as a talented player who proudly represented and loved the GAA though his involvement at Club, Community and County level.”
The Gaelic Players Association have also released a statement expressing their sadness at Aaron's sudden passing.
"On behalf of the county playing body, the Gaelic Players Association would like to express its sincere condolences to the family, friends and everyone connected to Derry and Ballinderry footballer Aaron Devlin who passed away today," read a GPA statement.
"Aaron was a talented representative for his club, county and college and his loss will leave a terrible void in many lives. During his career he was also an active member of the GPA and contributed to the Association's work this year."
GPA Chief Executive Dessie Farrell added: "It is with enormous sadness that we learned of the death of Derry footballer and GPA member Aaron Devlin today. A talented player, Aaron was a wonderful participant at our Student Summit earlier this year. 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."