The horseracing industry is in mourning today after the tragic death of apprentice jockey Ronan Lawlor -- just weeks before his 21st birthday.
Ronan, left, was training yesterday morning at the Ellen Lodge Racing Stables at Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow, for trainer Pat Fahy when he was flung into a fence by a bolting horse.
The horse made a sudden movement, throwing the jockey against a post and rail.
He suffered serious head injuries and despite brave attempts by colleagues to revive him, he was pronounced dead a short time after an ambulance crew arrived.
His heartbroken family described him in a tribute as "a lovely lad who absolutely loved horses".
Ronan's brother, Cathal, described the ordeal as "unbelievable".
"We are all just devastated. He was so easy going, a lovely, lovely lad who loved horses," he said.
The Lawlor family, who live in Leighlinbridge have been hit by tragedy before, when Ronan's sister Deirdre was killed several years ago in a road crash.
Cathal (25) described his brother as a determined sportsman who got straight back up every time he fell.
"It's hard to come to terms with," he said.
Trainer Pat Fahy, who was at the stables when the accident happened, paid a glowing tribute to the young jockey, who has been riding out horses for him every weekend since he was a boy.
"For as long as I can remember he's been coming up weekends and summers to work for me," he said.
He describe Ronan as being "one in a million".
"He travelled all around Ireland with me. He was one of those special people," he said.
Ronan had also been working as an apprentice jockey to top flat trainer David Wachman, who described him as having a natural flair.
"He was a top-class guy. Whatever he turned his hand to, you know he'd succeed," he said.
Ronan never got to experience the buzz of a winning ride and his best place finish was third place in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Maiden at the Curragh last March on the David Wachman- trained Askfornothing.
He was also a talented footballer and played for the Carlow under-21s as well as his local team Leighlinbridge.
The Health and Safety Authority and the gardai are investigating the incident.