Singer-songwriter Kate McCusker is hoping her success at winning the 2011 Mencap Y Factor singing competition will be a major step towards carving out a professional career in music.
Local girl Kate came out on top in the fourth and final heat of the competition at the Main Street complex in Omagh before going on to win the grand final staged later the same night at the same venue.
And her prize - a recording contract with Steve Martin's SoundHouse studio in Belfast.
Steve, one of the judges for the competition, summed Kate up in one word - "awesome!".
It was a fitting climax to the singing contest after previous heats in Belfast, Newry and Londonderry.
The competition, which has been organised over the past three years, raised a record £28,000 for Mencap this year - with all the money being used to support projects run by the charity across Northern Ireland.
Kate joined previous heat winners Oonagh Gorman, Katie Patton and Alexis
Sisamotos and judges' wild card Jolene McHenry.
But it was Kate who wowed the judges with her version of the Bob Dylan song 'Make You Feel My
Love' which was recently a huge hit for Adele.
Kate was totally surprised at her success.
"I am smiling from ear to ear as I just didn't expect it. I just thought I would go along and represent Main Street and give it my best shot so I am just overwhelmed and delighted to have won.
"I have been singing since almost as early as I could talk. I am from a very musical family. My father taught me to sing and to play the tin whistle from a very early age and then I taught myself to play the guitar when I was about 14.
"I then started singing all over the place - at weddings, funerals and in bars. I just love it - it's my life and passion."
Kate said Mencap was a very worthwhile charity.
"I was amazed to discover how much has been raised from this event. I am just delighted to have been a part of it and am only too pleased to have contributed to such a wonderful event," she added.
Laura McManus, Mencap’s Head of Fundraising said: “It is fantastic, especially in this challenging economic climate, to see so many well known businesses coming out in support of Mencap.
"The high calibre of singers throughout the whole competition has made these events a truly memorable and entertaining experience for everyone involved.
"Fundraising events such as the Y Factor are vitally important to enable Mencap to continue its work supporting people with a learning disability here in Northern Ireland."
Cathy Martin of CMPR, another one of the judges, added: "The Y Factor is not just any talent competition - it's a proper, professional singing and performing contest. I've just been bowled over. It is encouraging to know there is such interesting and innovative talent out there in Northern Ireland."
For more information on Mencap’s fundraising events visit www.mencap.org.uk