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Joseph McDermott was left fighting for life after a hit-and-run horror... now he's leading his football heroes onto the pitch

Just nine months ago his life was hanging in the balance.

Belfast boy Joseph McDermott lay in hospital in a critical condition after suffering devastating injuries when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver.

Just eight years old at the time, Joseph suffered a broken neck, jaw, pelvis, arms and legs as well as fractured ribs and ankles.

The little boy defied the odds, surviving after two months in intensive care, and at the weekend was well enough to fulfil his dreams of being a mascot for his beloved Cliftonville FC.

Joseph led the team onto the pitch at Solitude for Saturday's Premiership clash with Dungannon Swifts – a phenomenal feat considering it was feared he would never walk again.

On January 29 the young football fan's life changed forever when he was struck by a car on the Grosvenor Road while on his way back from the local shop.

He left hospital in a specially adapted wheelchair, and despite his neck still being broken and having pins in his arms and legs, he has been able to walk again thanks to regular physiotherapy.

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And he did that proudly as he led the Reds out against their Co Tyrone opponents on Saturday.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, the nine-year-old told us he was "doing well".

"It was an amazing experience," he said. "It was the best day of my life and I'd love to do it again."

Proud grandfather Simon Smith said the team had been an important part of the St Joseph's Primary School pupil's recovery.

"When Joseph was in a coma I would have sat with him every day and sang Cliftonville songs to him," he said. "I read the football results to him and told him about all of the matches we would go to together when he got better. The players came to visit him and he was given a card and signed shirt."

Simon revealed that when Joseph walked out on the pitch on Saturday the crowd went wild.

"They all started chanting his name. He was so happy, he thought he was one of the players and started waving at the crowd. It was very emotional for his mum and I to watch," he said.

The police probe into what happened to Joseph is still ongoing.

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