‘We will always love Keelan’

The remains of Keelan Mullan arrive at St Matthew's Church, Drumsurn, for Requiem Mass. (0803PG11)
The remains of Keelan Mullan arrive at St Matthew's Church, Drumsurn, for Requiem Mass. (0803PG11)

The heartbroken parents of Drumsurn teenager Keelan Mullan have spoken of the “overwhelming support” they’ve had since their “beautiful son” died in a tragic accident.

The popular and much loved 17-year-old died on Saturday after his car was involved in a collision with a tractor on the Drumsurn Road, not far from his home.

Keelan, a Lower Sixth pupil at St. Mary’s, Limavady, was laid to rest in his home parish on Wednesday at St. Matthew’s chapel. The village church was too small to hold the hundreds of people who had come from near and far to say their final goodbyes to the young Gaelic footballer.

Keelan’s parents, Deborah and Declan want people to know how much they appreciate the incredible support they and Keelan’s three beautiful sisters, Decla, Hannah and Mia have received.

“It’s been overwhelming,” said mum Deborah. “We can’t believe it. It’s more than anyone could expect. You couldn’t ask for better.”

Deborah and Declan say their first born was a quiet, modest good young fella, and there are no words to describe how they feel.

“Keelan was nearly too perfect. I can’t remember the last time me or his daddy had to say anything to him,” said Deborah. “Keelan was my first born, our beautiful boy; beautiful inside and out. I wouldn’t wish the heartache we have on anyone.”

Deborah and Declan say the entire community of Drumsurn has been incredible, offering to help in every imaginable way. They say Keelan’s school - a massive part of his life - has been outstanding, even creating a special memorial booklet for his funeral. The school choir sang at the mass, while his school mates formed a guard of honour along with Drumsurn camogie and football players. Students from St. Matthew’s Primary School also formed a guard of honour. “I knew Keelan had a close knit group of friends, but I never knew he had such a huge circle of friends. His best friend, Danny Mulhern has been amazing,” said Deborah, who said friends had been sharing pictures and stories with them about their only son.

“Keelan had a great wee family of friends,” said Deborah, “so many we didn’t know of.”

The aspiring young design student had recently thrived during work experience at MMI Engineering in Ballymena with Michael Hasson, which Deborah said he “loved every minute of”.

Keelan was a hard worker at school and outside the classroom too. While Keelan - smart and dedicated to always doing his best - wanted to study design, dad Declan said he loved working with him on the sites during the summer and at Christmas. He also had a part time job as a barman at ‘The Classic’ restaurant in Limavady, which he loved. He enjoyed the company with his colleagues, and didn’t really care about the money. Declan said there was even one occasion when he hadn’t collected his wages for five weeks.

“He loved that job,” said Deborah.

Keelan was a passionate Gaelic football fan and played for St. Patrick’s, an amalgamated team from Drum and Drumsurn. He also played for his local club, St. Matthews GAC and for his school.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Keelan. You couldn’t ask for a better son,” said Deborah.

Declan says even from an early age, Keelan always made his family proud. Whether it was looking out for younger sister Decla when she was starting St. Mary’s, taking Hannah to camogie practice, or playing with Mia after school, “he was a fantastic brother”.

“Keelan had a lovely gentle friendly manner,” said Deborah. “We are so proud of him.”

The family want to thank everyone who has offered their support in recent days. In particular they pay special tribute to the emergency services; the Fire and Rescue Service, the PSNI and the Ambulance Service. They also want to thank local priests who have been supporting them - Fr. Liam Donnelly (Ballykelly), Fr. Art O’Reilly (Foreglen), Fr. Brian Brady (Ballerin), Fr. Aidan Mullan (Drumsurn and Dungiven), Fr. Eddie Gallagher (Limavady), and Fr. Anthony McMullan (Dundalk).

“Everybody has been fantastic and we really appreciate that,” said Deborah. “Things will never be the same. They’ve changed forever, but Keelan was a very important member of our family and we will always love him. I always say Keelan was nearly too perfect, too good for here. He’s definitely an angel.”