BGT's Mark McMullan hotly tipped for West End stardom despite losing to Chelsea Pensioner
Crossgar singer Mark McMullan lost out last night in his bid to become Northern Ireland's first ever victor in Britain's Got Talent - but he's won rave reviews from musical theatre insiders who are tipping him for stardom in the West End.
The 24-year-old architect has, it's understood, already been approached by theatrical agents wanting to sign him up despite his defeat in the final by 89-year-old singing Chelsea Pensioner Colin Thackery.
Mark, who hosts Ant and Dec said had all of Northern Ireland behind him, received a standing ovation last night from the BGT judges and the audience after he sang an electrifying version of the song She Used To Be Mine from the musical Waitress.
His disabled brother Declan, who has locked-in syndrome, was in the audience and in tears after hearing Mark's performance.
Judge David Walliams told Mark he had done brilliantly, adding: "There's something very special about you, because you draw the audience in and you stay incredibly true to the emotion of any song you are singing."
Alesha Dixon said Mark's performance last night was her favourite of the series, adding: "You did it at the right time."
Amanda Holden told Mark: "I have never seen you so confident on that stage. You entertained everybody and you knocked it through the roof."
Simon Cowell agreed that it had been Mark's best performance, but said he would have advised him to sing the song with a piano track, without the violins in the background.
"You are almost too perfect at the moment," he added.
"It didn't need what we normally do because you are that good."
Social media went into overdrive after Mark's performance, with scores of people saying he deserved to win the £250,000 top prize along with a spot on the Royal Variety Performance. After his song, Mark, who joked that no one had ever told him before that he was too perfect, thanked all the people who had supported him and had given him a "phenomenal opportunity".
He said that his BGT experience had made up his mind that he wanted to pursue a career in musical theatre.
"I work full time as an architect. I love it so much, but there's always been a niggle in the back of my mind that if I don't ever try music I will only regret it," he said.
"The dream is just to see my name above a theatre.
"I would love to be in the West End.
"This show really gives me the opportunity to pursue that. "
Mark also said that his family were everything to him and that he wouldn't have got anywhere without them.
Back home the messages of support for him have been flooding in ever since he qualified for the final, with a Linfield star from Crossgar and a Gaelic football club from the area backing him.
Andrew Waterworth, who's the Blues leading goalscorer, retweeted a message from Crossgar Youth League, which had urged people to vote for their former player.
A tweet from Darragh Cross GAC just a few miles from the McMullan family home said that Mark was one of their former players too and appealed to everyone to vote for him.
The cast of a new West End musical showed their support for Mark in an unusual way after he sang You Will Be Found from their show Dear Evan Hansen in the semi-final.
The cast adapted their Facebook page logo to 'Dear Mark McMullan'.
Owners of a Crossgar pub, the Crowe's Nest, also changed the profile of their Facebook page to one featuring Mark and insisted he would be a worthy BGT winner.
Mark's girlfriend of eight years, nurse Zoe Hunter, was in London for last night's final.
The manic rehearsal schedule over the last week had left little time for him to see much of his family.
"He was really tired and after having a quick bite to eat on Saturday night he had to rush off to his room to finish his dissertation for his Master's degree," said dad John.
Mr Thackery said he was "astonished" to have won the 2019 series.
The 89-year-old also beat magician X to win the ITV show.
"I don't know what to say," he told hosts Ant and Dec.
"I'm stuck for words, for a change."
X said it felt "amazing" to be runner-up.
He said: "To come second to someone like Colin, who has given his life for us... I bow to him.
"Deepest respect. I absolutely love the man.
"He deserves to win."