An Armagh community has been left stunned and deeply saddened by the sudden passing of a “passionate and proud” gael.
Gerard Devlin, from Armagh city, passed away suddenly on Wednesday, and news of his untimely death has plunged not only his family, but the wider community into grief.
Cuchulainn Hurling Club in Armagh, for which Gerard was a huge part over many years, led the tributes.
“The committee and members of Cuchulainn Hurling Club are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden death of Gerard, our esteemed former chairman, player, senior manager, referee, father of current senior captain Connor, and wish to tender our deepest sympathies to him, his daughters Ciarrai and Roisin and wife Bebe, and the entire family circle,” a Club statement read.
“Gerard played, with distinction, senior hurling for club and county from 1971 to the mid-1990s, and represented Ulster on a few occasions,” the statement continued.
“He was on the victorious team which won the Kilmacud Sevens Shield tournament in 1984 beating Castlebar in the final.
“Gerard also had a very successful refereeing career at club and inter-county levels culminating in him being selected to referee the 1998 All Ireland Minor Hurling Final where Cork beat Kilkenny.
“Gerard was also a recipient of the Ulster GAA Writers Referee Award and was selected to referee on the GAA Hurling All Stars trip to Chicago.
“As faithful GAA volunteers, Gerard and Bebe have stewarded at the Athletic Grounds for many years, giving freely of their time.
“The Club Executive, as a mark of respect, has decided to cancel all Club activity until after the funeral.
“Mary, Queen of the Gael, pray for the repose of Gerard’s soul, and all his family and friends at this very sad time. May he now rest in peace.”
SDLP MLA Justin McNulty, who knew Gerard personally, also paid his own tribute.
“Gerard was warm and friendly and always keen to help anybody any way he could,” he said.
“He was a passionate and proud Armagh, Ógs and Cuchulainn’s Gael. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
“My sympathies with his family, friends, colleagues and fellow Gaels. I measc na naomh go raibh sé.”
Granemore Camogie Club, for which Gerard has very close ties, paid tribute to their former coach, club referee and loyal supporter.
“Much loved husband of our secretary and the heart beat of our club Bebe, father of senior camog and underage coach Ciarrai, club coach Connor and past player Roisin,” the Club said of Gerard.
“Our heart broken club offer our heartfelt condolences to Gerard’s entire family circle, in particular Bebe, Roisin, Connor and Ciarrai and his sister-in-law’s Mary, Ann and Bernie, his nieces and nephews all of whom are current and past players of our club.
“We keep Gerard, Bebe, Roisin, Connor and Ciarrai and all the family in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time. Mary Queen of the Gael pray for Gerard.”
Pearse Og Armagh posted: “Na Piarsaigh Óga committee and members are saddened to learn of the sudden death of Gerard Devlin club referee, and wish to tender our deepest sympathies to his wife Bebe daughters Ciarrai and Roisin son Connor and entire family circle. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”
An Armagh GAA spokesperson added: “Armagh County Board deeply regret to learn of the death of Gerard Devlin (RIP), esteemed referee, steward and dear friend who passed away yesterday (2 September 2020).
“A long-serving referee in hurling and football, having officiated at an All-Ireland Minor final in 1998 between Cork and Kilkenny and the Ulster Hurling final in 2008 between Lavey and Dunloy. As a referee, he was well-known as an expert in the rules, constantly maintaining a high level of fitness and a committed mentor to young referees.
“Gerard represented his club Cúchulainn, county and province with distinction on the hurling field and remained an active member of his club. He was also a member of the Athletic Grounds Field Committee and a dedicated steward where he gave his time freely and generously for each and every match. Patrons in the middle of the stand will remember him particularly well as a polite, respectful presence who fully understood his role and led his team with distinction and discretion.
“We extend our most heartfelt condolences to his wife Bebe, daughters Roisín and Ciarraí, son Conor, family, friends and fellow gaels at Cúchulainn & Pearse Ogs. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”
Other GAA clubs offered their condolences to Gerard’s family.
A spokesperson for Middletown GAA added: “Gerard was a selfless worker in many aspects of GAA life and following on from a successful playing career with Cuchullainns he became one of the top referees in Armagh, Ulster and at national level.
“He was known all around the country in GAA circles and in more recent years was one of the welcoming faces at the Athletic Grounds.
“It is thanks to Gerard and other willing workers that our association is as strong as it is and we pay tribute to his dedication and contribution over the years. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam”