Mrs Brown’s Boys’ star Fiona O'Carroll defies aches and blisters to complete Cork to Belfast charity walk
Mrs Brown's Boys star Fiona O'Carroll, who plays Maria in the hit show, broke down in tears as she thanked her supporters after an arduous 260-mile charity walk from Cork to Belfast.
The daughter of the show's creator and lead star Brendan O'Carroll crossed the finish line outside the Europa Hotel on Great Victoria Street yesterday afternoon after 13 days of pounding the pavement for the Billy's World charity.
The actress, who ran the London Marathon for Billy's World in 2015, said she passionately believes in its founder's vision to help children with special needs and their families by building a sensory holiday facility.
"I knew it was going to be physical, there was pain and a lot of blisters so it was a case of mind over matter," she said. "My muscles ached at night-time, if you imagine a sleeping dog with its legs still going - that's what I was like in bed. I feel like I have a headache in my leg."
The busy mother-of-four did manage to squeeze in some training before the gruelling challenge but was unprepared for the emotional impact, exacerbated by being separated from her young children.
"My husband has been amazing and the GK Events team have been incredible, I never thought in my wildest dreams we would have bonded so well," she said. "They took turns walking with me, they held my hand, hugged me when I needed it and they made me laugh.
"It was tough at times, especially when my son Isaac turned three while I was on the road - but we celebrated before I left so he thinks he turned three sooner than he did."
Fiona's online fundraising page has racked up almost £17,000 for Billy's World, which has obtained planning permission in Co Laois beside the Heritage hotel in Killenard.
"It's the little things in life that matter," she said.
"People take breaking bread around the table with family for granted, but for some it's impossible - they often have to go on separate holidays and there can be a lot of guilt with that.
"I know the benefits this will bring to many people and how hard (founder) Tony has worked."
Billy's World was set up by Tony and Cora Byrne, whose son Billy was one of only three people in Ireland living with a rare condition known as Pallister Killian syndrome when he passed away in March 2013, a week before his sixth birthday.