It has been a tough week in Breaffy, in Castlebar and for everyone who knew and loved David Gavin.
And still we wait, hoping for news that we could never have imagined we would wish for.
We’re praying for David’s funeral, praying his body is found. Those are words none of us in Breaffy ever thought we’d utter but all that changed when the devastating news broke last Saturday morning that David was missing, feared drowned, after getting into difficulty in a lake in British Colombia, Canada.
It has been a traumatic few days since for everyone in Breaffy but, much more so, for David’s family, his girlfriend Ciara, and his many, many friends.
David was an outstanding footballer who played county minor and Under 21 and was a bedrock of Breaffy’s defence in recent years but his ability as a footballer is beside the point.
David was one of the nicest guys you could meet. You would do well to find anyone with a bad word to say about him. He was pleasant, a gentleman to his fingertips. One of life’s good guys that you consider yourself lucky to know. It is why we were all just stopped in our tracks last Saturday morning. Life suddenly felt so cruel, so unfair.
And what started as news that was difficult to comprehend, news that David had lost his life, has become harder still as the search for his body continues.
There have been some particularly tough times in recent days. When news emerged on Tuesday that the official underwater search at Kin Basket Lake was being stood down, that was devastating news for David’s family and friends at the scene and everyone at home.
But that same Tuesday evening, everyone’s hearts were lifted by the incredible response to a fundraising campaign set up by David’s friends in the ISSC club in Vancouver. We could scarcely believe it as money poured in from all over the world. The response was phenomenal. Now it stands at over $180,000 (over €120,000) and counting.
Along with being a spectacular show of support to the Gavin family, it also now becomes a vital help in enabling the search to continue.
Later today, the underwater research will resume. It has to be sourced privately and will not be cheap. Neither will the helicopter searches that will be needed. The search will continue, hopefully, until David is found. However, it is possible that more funding will be needed to continue the search and every single contribution makes it more and more likely that David will be found and can come home.
To those who have already contributed, everyone in Breaffy is extremely grateful. To those who might be able to contribute and would like to, any contribution would be hugely welcome. The fundraising link is here.
David’s parents Michael and Angela, his sister Aoife and girlfriend Ciara are in our thoughts all the time. How we as Breaffy GAA clubmates of David are feeling is nothing in comparison to their suffering.
We think too of David’s friends out in Canada, among them Paul Sweeney, another clubmate of ours in Breaffy who was with him at the time of the tragedy. Paul has done more than could be asked of anyone in the days since.
David’s friends from home, Mark Towey and Emmet Gill, were at the scene since Friday too, going there as soon as they heard. And all of those who are out there, family and friends, from home, and who David met in Vancouver, are in all of our thoughts. Enduring the long, indefinite search cannot be easy. We will forever be in their debt.
All associated with ISSC in Vancouver have been amazing. The spirit of the gael carries far and wide and never has that been more apparent than in recent days.
Last night (Wednesday) in Breaffy, the GAA club held a support Mass in the clubhouse. Hundreds filed through the doors to stand with David’s family, friends, teammates and clubmates. People who had felt helpless had an outlet to show their support and they came in their droves to stand with the family.
On-field rivalries were left to one side as clubmen and players from neighbouring clubs came too. Great gaels like Kiltane’s Richie Cosgrove and Lacken’s Charlie Collins travelled a long way to be there too.
It is at times like this that we see the best of people in this country.
The Mass was surreal in a way, like a wake without a body. But it was an opportunity for solidarity, for people to stand together, that nobody was alone in their suffering. It was cathartic.
We all left at the end of the night, with some saying ‘I’m sure I’ll see you again in the next few days’. We knew what that meant. We hope and pray it comes to pass.
Edwin McGreal is a clubmate of David Gavin’s at Breaffy GAA.