“Rugby league was his life and what he gave his life for. He epitomised everything that we stand for as an Academy.”
With these moving words, Huddersfield Giants caretaker coach Andy Kelly said his final goodbye to a rising rugby star he had tipped for Super League stardom.
Addressing several hundred mourners at today’s funeral of Ronan Costello, who died age 17 after being injured in a game, Mr Kelly handed him the highest of compliments.
He said: “He would have been a successful professional. He was a successful professional. He was of Super League quality.”
Mr Kelly, who as Academy chief had coached Ronan, praised the young man’s parents, Nicola and Martin, for allowing him to see Ronan in hospital shortly before he died on June 14.
“Martin and Nicky, I can’t imagine where your souls sit at the moment but your qualities and class have been a strength.
“Your actions at the hospital were unselfish. You asked people to come and see Ronan. I feel very privileged and blessed that I could see Ronan in those final hours.”
Mr Kelly said Ronan’s death had deeply affected many people.
“For our Academy, things will never be the same again,” he said. “The way the fellas have dealt with it is an unbelievable testimony to them.”
Heartfelt tributes were made by those closest to Ronan, including two aunties, Claire and Joanne.
Mourners, including around 300 people who listened to the service on a big screen outside a packed St Patrick’s Church, were in tears.
Auntie Claire recalled that as a little boy Ronan was full of energy and always on the go.
“He was a headstrong young man even then,” she said. “He lived for his family and was always keen to have a cuddle when there was a new baby in the family.”
Claire described the close friendship that Ronan had with his younger sister, Chloe.
“They were always play fighting and exercising together,” she said. “He looked after her like a big brother should. She is going to miss Ronan terribly.”
Mourners heard how the whole family were proud of Ronan’s achievements in rugby league.
On a tour of Australia last year Ronan was twice awarded Man of the Match and was approached by a scout who was impressed with his ability.
Claire described Ronan as a polite and respectful young man whose former coach had called a “likeable lad who had an aura around him.”
She added: “We are all in shock that Ronan has died. It seems so unfair. He leaves a huge gap in all of our lives. It is comforting to know that he died doing something he loved and as a superstar. Rest in peace lad.”
Ronan’s auntie Joanne also gave a eulogy in which she described him as a “caring, respectful, compassionate and talented young man.”
She added: “One of the proudest moments was when Ronan’s hard work paid off when he was 16. He signed a professional contract with Huddersfield Giants last summer. He could not have been more overjoyed.
“He lived and breathed rugby league. It was a massive part of his life but his family was the most important thing.”
In the days after his death, it had been heartwarming to see his “infectious smile” everywhere, including on Sky Sports, she said.
“It was Ronan’s dream to be on Sky Sports every week. Ronan, we could not be more proud of you. We love you forever.”