Father's heartbreak as family prepare to say farewell to tragic goalkeeper Aaron (12)
The father of a talented young soccer player who died suddenly after being hospitalised with a high fever has asked people to wear his favourite colour, red - as well as the red jerseys of his club - to his funeral.
Aaron O'Kelly, from the Herbert Road area of Bray, Co Wicklow, had suddenly taken ill at home last week and was running a high temperature.
On Saturday, the 12-year-old collapsed at the family home and was taken to Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin.
Tragically, he died there soon after.
His shattered dad Paul, who is a member and coach at the local Ardmore Rovers soccer club, where his son had excelled as a goalkeeper, yesterday released a statement through the club, on behalf of Aaron's mum Sharon, sister Eleanor and brother Robert.
"We have received great comfort from the messages of support that have come from Aaron's teammates, their families and the wider Ardmore Rovers family," Mr O'Kelly said.
"Playing for his team and representing his club was a huge part of his short life and an incredible source of happiness for him.
"We would like the funeral to celebrate Aaron's life and would ask people to wear splashes of red, which was Aaron's favourite colour. Ardmore jerseys will be a welcome sight.
"While we are broken, we realise that the gift we had having Aaron in our life for such a short period outweighs the pain we now feel.
"Thank you all for your support."
Arrangements for Aaron's funeral are still to be finalised and will be published on the RIP.ie website, according to Mr O'Kelly.
Following the sudden death of the popular young player, Ardmore Rovers also paid tribute to Aaron on their Facebook page.
That has attracted a massive response, with a flood of messages of sympathy and support from the local and wider communities, as well as a number of other soccer clubs.
The club wrote: "Ardmore Rovers football club is greatly saddened by the news of the passing of one of its young footballers, Aaron O'Kelly, aged 12.
"Aaron epitomised the spirit of the club and he was a very popular and friendly figure in his team.
"As goalkeeper, he helped his under-12 team win its DDSL (Dublin and District Schoolboys League) league before Christmas, as well as picking up the Player of the Year award in the same season.
"His dad Paul has managed Aaron's team for several years and is a valued member of our club.
"Ardmore Rovers and all its members would like to send its condolences to the O'Kelly family at this very sad time."
The Football Association of Ireland also issued a statement, passing on the organisation's condolences to the family and friends of Aaron.
"The thoughts and prayers from members of the football family are with Aaron's family and friends at this difficult time.
"We will remember Aaron at our next home Republic of Ireland men's senior international," the statement added.
Other football clubs also sent messages of support yesterday.
A statement from local club Bray Wanderers read: "Bray Wanderers FC would like to express our deepest sympathies to the family of young Aaron O'Kelly who passed away yesterday.
"Goalkeeper Aaron was a member of Ardmore Rovers U12s here in Bray.
"During this difficult period, we also keep Aaron's friends and team mates in Ardmore Rovers in our thoughts. RIP Aaron."
Another club posted a message which said: "Condolences from all of us at St Maelruans FC. Very tragic news, RIP Aaron."
Shelbourne and Tolka Rovers football clubs also expressed their condolences.
As the O'Kelly family now faces the heartbreaking task of organising Aaron's funeral, Bray Sinn Fein councillor Michael O'Connor offered his support.
"It's an absolute tragedy and heartbreaking for the poor family," he said.
The HSE and Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin said they were not in a position to comment on individual cases.