Thirteen weeks after Ballinderry star Aaron Devlin died from Meningitis his family has unveiled a legacy jersey designed “to keep his memory alive”.
All proceeds from the top, which features his nicknames Dook and Azza as well as his catch phrase ‘kind of a big deal’, will go to the charity Meningitis Now - which helped the family in their time of need.
Aaron’s brothers Ronan and Coilin both said the idea, which stemmed from his friend Matthew Nelson, has helped the family find something to smile about while coming to terms with his loss.
Ronan said: “It’s definitely helping us to keep our mind off things and helping to keep his memory alive.
“We have an online order system going and we are going to do a couple of order days down here [Ballinderry Shamrocks] so people can come and order and pay by cash.
“All the profits are going to Meningitis Now... and that will go to fund research and help families affected by meningitis.
“They got in contact with us very early when Aaron was in hospital. But equally if anybody wants to donate to any of the meningitis charities, it’s all going to a good place.”
“The idea was to get the jersey out there regardless of how much money was going to be made,” Coilin added.
“It’s wee things like this that give you a lift.
“You can always smile looking back, rather than looking back in a sad sort of way.”
You can always smile looking back, rather than looking back in a sad sort of way - Coilin Devlin
A thought his mum Caramel agreed. She pointed out that on the sleeves the jersey says ‘kind of a big deal’.
Something she said Aaron even told a woman who didn’t know much about Gaelic football, while he was in hospital.
Ballinderry Manager Stephen McGeehan, who has plans of his own to commemorate Aaron, said the spirit of the jersey has really captured his character.
“Some of the comments on the jersey and some of the logos are all very personalised and make us all smile about Aaron and the person that he was,” Stephen said.
“Aaron was such a character and so fun loving and such a free spirit that the fun version of this is something that the family has deliberately done.
“I know it’s given them great pleasure designing the jersey and personalising it.
“We would like to thank O’Neill’s Sports for their co-operation,” he added, “I’m just concerned from the club’s point of view that we’ll sell more of these than we will our own jerseys - but that’s a price worth paying.”
For details on how to order go to https://meningitis-now.myshopify.com. Ballinderry Shamrocks will also be holding a number of order days.
The number 23 Gaelic football legacy jersey is available in a range of sizes, features Aaron’s name, mementos of him and his age when he lost his battle with meningitis.
All proceeds from the jersey will be donated to Meningitis Now, helping fund vital research for the prevention and cure of the disease, support to those affected by it, and also raising lifesaving awareness.
Steve Dayman, who along with his wife Gloria founded Meningitis Now when they lost their baby son Spencer to meningitis 33 years ago, spoke fondly of the Devlin family at the jersey’s launch on Friday.
Having travelled to Ballinderry from the charity’s base in Gloucestershire, he said: “My main role is visiting families and a lot of them are recently bereaved.
“With Meningitis Now, it’s families that have been affected by the disease that are the driving force behind all of our activities.
“I think for most families turning their tragedy into something positive is really helpful and they will find it comforting to know that Aaron’s name is going to live on in many ways,” he added.
“By the sounds of it he was a very inspirational character and the new development is something for people to look up to as he was such a young fella.”
Although unsure of the number of orders so far, Steve said they have also received donations off the back of the jersey from “people who don’t really want a shirt but they’re making donations - and that’s really good”.