Rian Nolan's devastated sister in moving tribute after he passes away from illness
The sister of a young footballer from west Belfast who died following a long illness has paid a touching tribute to her brother.
Schoolboy Rian Nolan (14) passed away peacefully on Saturday at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children's Haematology unit surrounded by his heartbroken family.
His devastated sister Alanna paid a moving tribute on social media a short time later.
"My favourite boy, my best friend, the best baby brother there is," she wrote on Facebook.
"You'll never be forgotten, you fought so hard for so long, you're with grandma and granddad now. Look over me, I'll never forget you Ronnie, brother-sister bond is unbreakable."
She had previously hailed her brother's courage as she shared selfies of the pair in hospital, describing him as "my wee fighter".
Teammates of the St James' Swifts under-16s player had only found out that Rian was sick shortly before the summer.
They quickly organised a number of fundraising events for their pal who was undergoing treatment at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London.
But after stepping off the pitch on Saturday they were told by team manager Gerard Tate that Rian had lost his brave battle.
"It was terrible," he said. "They are all heartbroken."
In a moving tribute the club held a minute's silence before its senior team played Ballymacash Rangers at the weekend. It also awarded all its man of the match spots to Rían "who is looking over all our teams" and dedicated a successful weekend of results to him.
Club secretary David Walsh said everyone was upset at the terrible loss of "such a devoted, bright young fella" who turned up for every match. "We are committed to community here and Rían was very popular and highly regarded by a lot of people around here," he said. "He was a very likeable fella. Our thoughts are with his parents Janette and Peter at this very difficult time."