WESTMEATH REFEREE ALFIE Devine says taking charge of last Sunday’s Allianz Hurling League Division 2B clash between Meath and Derry is what his late brother Donal would have wanted.

Devine bravely officiated the game in Navan – just two days after Donal was laid to rest.

Westmeath GAA was plunged into mourning when Donal, a former county hurler and four-time county senior hurling winner with Castlepollard, passed away suddenly after training last Tuesday evening.

And yet Alfie still managed to battle through the Meath-Derry game, with his brothers Frank and Seamus assisting him as umpires.

Alfie said: “We decided on the day of the funeral that Donal wouldn’t want us pulling out of it because of him.

“We talked about it during the week and decided on Friday night that we were going to do it.

“Donal wouldn’t want us missing out. It’s an awful tragedy and it’s his wife and kids left behind who are feeling it most.

“He was the youngest of the whole lot of us, which was the biggest shock of the whole lot.

“In the natural run of things, we weren’t expecting anything like that to happen.

“He had no problems with anything before this, no aches, pains or complaints. “It’s just very hard to come to terms with.”

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For 70 minutes at least, refereeing a game of hurling provided a distraction for Alfie and his brothers.

And he said: “It was, in a way. He wouldn’t have wanted us holding back and we just decided to go and do it.

“I was happy enough that we did it in the finish.

“The people in Meath were very sympathetic and helpful, and there was a nice tribute before the game and a minute’s silence. It was emotional, but nice the way they did it for us.”

It wasn’t the first time that tragedy struck the family, sadly, as another of the Devine brothers, Martin, was killed 25 years ago in a car accident.

And Alfie said: “It’s the same thing all over again. Donal was only 40, had so much to live for and went all of a sudden.”

Alfie, who’s quickly progressing through the inter-county refereeing ranks, is in action next when Louth host Monaghan in next Sunday’s Allianz League Division 3A fixture in Darver.

Donal’s nephew, Allan, was also in action last weekend, for the Westmeath hurlers in their Division 2A defeat to Kildare.

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