X Factor's Mary Byrne returns to Tesco store for hero's welcome
Six months ago X Factor sensation Mary Byrne checked out of till 40 to pursue her singing dream.
Yesterday she returned to a hero's welcome from a thousand ecstatic fans gathered outside her old store.
Byrne was back at her old till in Tesco's Ballyfermot branch -- but this time under the glare of the media spotlight.
Her former customers were delighted to see her back. "Can you give me 'cash back' Mary? You must have a few bob now?" one wag quipped.
But the shop worker revealed she has yet to see any money from her reality show stardom.
"I haven't made a penny. I've nothing at the moment," she told the Irish Independent.
"I'm still an employee of Tesco and if things don't work out, I wouldn't have any qualms about coming back here."
Excitement over the local woman's return had been building from the morning, with children from local schools holding up 'Welcome Home, Mary' posters and chanting the shop worker's name.
School principal Marion McHugh, from St Raphael's Primary School, and her staff brought up to a hundred students along to join the homecoming. "Mary attended our school so it's great to see a past pupil doing well," she said.
Despite losing out in controversial circumstances during the show's semi-final, friends and neighbours were adamant their local hero was the real star.
"In our eyes, Mary Byrne won 'X Factor'. She is our star," said local resident Lorraine Murray.
Shortly before 1pm, the supermarket worker turned supernova was back, standing on a platform outside her old workplace.
It was an emotional occasion for the mother of one, who earlier shared a joyful reunion with her brother Tommy.
"It's the best feeling in the world seeing your home town. I had so much love from this place and the whole of Ireland during 'X Factor'," Mary told the thousand or so well-wishers.
"The gas thing about the crowd is that I knew nearly every one of them."
There were more familiar faces inside the shop, including Tesco colleague Doreen Edwards, who has worked beside Mary on the tills for 11 years.
"We thought the next time we saw Mary we'd be putting her CD on the racks. Performing on 'X Factor' she did us all proud," Doreen said.
But the singer revealed she had often been "frightened" taking part in the reality show.
"It was frightening because of the way they ran it -- the voting each week and wondering if you would make it through. Doing 'X Factor' can be very stressful," she said.
But now with an album deal for Simon Cowell's Syco label, and the 'X Factor' tour of Ireland and the UK, along with her own theatre tour in the New Year, it was an experience that will change her life forever.
"I often wake up now and think 'Oh my God, what's happened to me?' It's surreal because I still feel like Mary Byrne from Tesco and this will always be home," she said.