MORE than 1,000 people attended the funeral Mass of amateur jockey Ryan Cusack, whose "proudest day" was wearing the silks of 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 is understood Ryan had been standing on a draw bar between a tractor and a trailer that had been transporting felled trees on Mr Bolger's land when he slipped and suffered a fatal injury to his neck and head.
He was pronounced dead at the scene despite efforts to try and resuscitate him.
At his funeral Mass yesterday, parish priest Fr Loughlin Brennan said the sudden and tragic loss was "a crushing blow" to Ryan's parents Martina and Vincent.
Ryan's 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. Horses were his passion. At 15, 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.
The rising star, who would have celebrated his 18th birthday tomorrow, had secured three rides under McManus and Bolger.
Mr Ryan fondly recalled how the teenage rider would make his family and friends repeatedly watch footage of his first race in the McManus silks.
"What a proud moment it was for all of us," he said.
He described how Ryan was also a skilled hurler who represented Limerick at under-age level and who captained Murroe Boher to an under-14 county championship in 2007.
Mourners wept as Ryan's younger brother Barry helped carry the coffin out of the Holy Rosary Church in Murroe. And as Ryan set out on his final furlong to Abington Cemetery, his hearse was flanked by two horsemen from Scarteen Hunt – one of whom was wearing the McManus racing colours.
Ryan's classmates at Newport Community College provided the guard of honour at yesterday's service.