Epilepsy battler Billy hailed hero by Republic team idols
The Republic's football team have paid tribute to Castlederg "epilepsy warrior" Billy Caldwell after inviting the 12-year-old to "try out" in Dublin.
Looking on proudly was Billy's mum Charlotte, who attributed her son's "amazing transformation" to medicinal cannabis.
Billy was the first person in the UK or Ireland to be prescribed medicinal cannabis.
The treatment has seen the intractable epilepsy sufferer go from having several severe seizures a night to being able to stand up straight, walk and kick a ball.
The family were initially forced to fundraise and travel to America for private treatment before finally securing cannabis oil on the NHS in Northern Ireland.
"The Republic of Ireland football team saw Billy's story and his journey, and they hailed him a hero and saluted him when he got down to Dublin," Charlotte said.
"He is a big fan of the team. Roy Keane is his favourite, as well as James McClean from Derry. Billy was holding their hands - he is so loveable and he doesn't realise that these guys are superstars.
"I would like to thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
"I have seen an incredible change in Billy. He has now been completely seizure-free for nine months due to his treatment. Before, he was taking several seizures a night and was a status epileptic, meaning when he went into a seizure he couldn't come out of it. Before, he had to wear special needs boots to walk, now he can wear normal football boots. He's running and his back is really straight."
Charlotte and Billy will attend a rally to legalise medicinal cannabis next Tuesday from 12-4pm outside Stormont.