‘From the day he could walk, he ran’
More than a thousand people have attended the funeral mass of amateur jockey Ryan Cusack, whose "proudest day" was wearing the silks of magnate JP McManus.
The 17-year old was killed instantly in a freak accident last Friday at Enda Bolger's training yard in Bruree, Co Limerick.
It's understood he had been standing on a draw bar between a tractor and a trailer that had been transporting felled trees on Mr Bolger's land. He slipped and suffered a fatal blow to his neck and head and was pronounced dead at the scene despite efforts to try and resuscitate him.
At his funeral mass, his uncle William Ryan, paid an emotional tribute to his "friend" and nephew.
Mr Ryan described, how recently securing his first three rides for JP McManus and Irish trainer Enda Bolger, was his nephew's proudest moment.
"From the day he could walk, he ran," he told mourners.
"Ryan's first introduction to horses was Chico. Santa brought him. He was three years old. From the time he sat on the back of that pony he never got off (the saddle). He was already striking a jockey pose."
He added: "Horses were his passion. At fifteen, he knew exactly what he wanted. He was going to be a jockey."
"He was so eager to compete and win and at such a young age he was confident enough to seek out high profile trainers and offer them 'The Ryan Cusack Experience'," Mr Ryan joked.
He fondly recalled how the teenage rider would make his family and friends repeatedly watch footage of his first race in the McManus silks: "In his first race he had the privilege to wear JP's colours. What a proud moment it was for all of us."
Reciting a poignant epitaph in Ryan's memory, Murroe Parish Priest, Fr Loughlin Brennan said: "He was a tiny flower, lent not given. To bud on earth and bloom in heaven."
Fr Brennan described the sudden and tragic loss as "a crushing blow" for Ryan's parents Martina and Vincent.
Ryan's classmates at Newport Community College performed a guard of honour, and members of Murroe Boher GAA Club and Cappamore GAA Club wore their club jerseys as a mark of respect.
As Ryan set out on what was his final furlong, two days before his 18th birthday, two young horsemen attached to Scarteen Hunt led his coffin, which had been draped in the McManus green and yellow silks, to his final resting place at Abington Cemetery.