The Irish Mail on Sunday
A moving interview with Niall Horan’s mother
The mother of Ireland’s biggest boy band star talks about
It is strange being without him so much. It is a strain but it is part of what he is involved in now. I wouldn’t change a thing
DRIVING from Dublin to Mullingar, the landscape is dominated by political posters. On the main street of the town, a man stands outside the Greville Arms Hotel, wearing a Fine Gael rosette, drawing on his cigarette. The politicians have had this date, May 23, circled in red since the local and European elections were announced in January. But in Mullingar, the date has another, greater significance.
That’s the day their most famous son came home.
And for one Mullingar native in particular, it was red-letter day. It’s her actual, rather than figurative, son who took to the stage with his One Direction bandmates at Croke Park this weekend.
Inside the hotel lobby sits Maura Horan Gallagher, Niall’s mother. She will be spending the weekend in Dublin to support her son – and she is still struggling to comprehend the enormity of the occasion.
‘I never in my wildest dreams thought this weekend was possible,’ she says.
‘It is just four years since I went to Croke Park for his audition [for The X Factor]. Now we are back again – it is just unreal. I will probably wake up when I am watching him on stage. Who would ever have thought this? I can’t believe I am going to Croke Park to see my child on the stage. I went to see Garth Brooks and Neil Diamond some time ago, but not this.’
Across the hallway, a young girl is wearing a One Direction T-shirt and talking excitedly about attending one of the concerts. And Maura tells me that half of the staff at the hotel will be attending at least one of the three soldout Dublin shows.
‘The country has gone One Direction mad,’ she says.
‘And it is the parents as much as the children – especially mothers. I’m sure it is the same with fathers, but the mothers get into the swing of it because they are playing the songs in their cars with their children. It’s the same with myself... although nobody sees or hears me, thank God.’
For almost two decades she has been coming to the Greville Arms with her sons Niall and Greg, and she feels very much at home in the vintage lobby.
The staff know her by name and she orders tea, which she pours from a large metal pot.
I first met Maura backstage at the X Factor in 2009 – and she has always been wonderfully welcoming. At the mere mention of the Croke Park shows, she battles to keep her emotions in check, choking back tears of joy as she tries to process the events of this momentous weekend.
‘It will be huge. I know he is talking about how big it is going to be for him, but I’m not sure he will know how he feels when he steps out there on Friday night for the first time and sees the reaction from the crowd.
‘I don’t know what I am going to be like myself. I may bring a box of tissues. It is going to be amazing for me.’
When Maura smiles, she flashes Niall’s trademark beam, all the while marvelling at his success.
Speaking of the legendary Dublin venue for this weekend’s concerts, she mentions how important sport is to her son – and what Croke Park in particular means to him.
‘Oh God, he would have loved to have played Croke Park as a sportsman,’ she explains.
‘Sure when you talk about Ireland, you talk about Croke Park. And he is such a sports fan. But his dad Bobby loved every sport and watched everything and anything that was moving on the television. His father, his brother Greg and Niall all followed Derby County together and stuck with them throughout the years. Playing in Croker will be a big deal for him.’
So does that mean her son might be tempted to sneak into the main dressing rooms where his sporting heroes have bled for their counties and country?
‘He probably will. He might even be given a tour of it. I don’t know what the weekend will hold for him, but it will be one major excitement.’
She has been putting some thought into her outfit – influenced by an ongoing campaign by some fans to turn Croke Park green for Niall.
‘It is his homecoming, so why not? I’ll have to get something green myself.’
Niall will certainly be coming home to his favourite foods – his rider for the Croker shows includes Clonakilty sausages and Barry’s Tea.
His mother expands on One Direction’s strong connection to Niall’s home: ‘He loves to bring the lads in the band to Ireland. They love Ireland and the Irish people, the way we go on and are down to earth. They really do enjoy being over here – and this will be a major one for all of them, not just Niall.’
This weekend will be an emotional occasion for Maura in more ways than one, as she will be reunited with her son after a separation of almost six months – the last time she held and hugged Niall was on Christmas Day.
But she refuses to let his absence spoil her delight at Niall’s career, focusing on the positives of having a superstar son.
‘It is strange being without them so much. It is a strain, but it is part of what he is involved in now. It doesn’t stop you being lonely – you miss him. But I wouldn’t stop him or change a thing. Away with him. This is just something else for him and long may it last.’
There will be another important reunion for Maura this weekend as she meets up with the parents of the other four members of One Direction, who will be flying in for the gigs: ‘I am looking forward to seeing the ones I know are coming,’ she says.
‘There are mums and dads all over the world who are proud of their sports-star sons or their film-star children, but this weekend it is about these five singers and their moment – and for the parents it will be lovely to see them.
‘And we can all whinge in one another’s ears. I haven’t seen July at the film prem went with the boys o I didn’t. It is a rare are all together at th be a real treat to me
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