Northern Ireland

EuroMillions winner Frances Connolly remembers former club

Frances and Patrick Connolly Image copyright PA
Image caption Frances Connolly and her husband said they will share their £115m fortune

Excitement has reached fever pitch at a children's football club in England after a EuroMillions winner promised to use the jackpot to help the club.

Northern Ireland woman Frances Connolly and her husband Patrick won almost £115m in the New Year's Day draw and intend to share their good fortune.

Mrs Connolly told reporters one of the beneficiaries will be St Francis FC in Hartlepool, where she used to live.

Club Secretary Trevor Robinson said its members are "overwhelmed" by the offer.

"Everybody's talking about it, aspirations and dreams at the club are possibly becoming a reality," he said.

Clubhouse plan

The windfall came as a surprise for Mr Robinson, who only found out about their new benefactor when a member of the public posted a link to a news report on the club's social media page.

"I'll be honest, I did think it was a hoax at first," he told the BBC's Radio Ulster's Sunday News programme.

"Then I went on to the actual live coverage and heard her talking about St Francis [FC], I was just absolutely overwhelmed."

The small grassroots club caters for about 250 children aged from six to 13 and it is run entirely by volunteers.

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Media captionCommunity football club to receive lotto win share

Mrs Connolly began fundraising for the club before her marriage, and well before Mr Robinson's tenure as secretary but according to his sources she had big plans to develop the organisation.

"She was the fundraising officer and very motivated and enthusiastic about making the club bigger and better and providing for the kids and families," he said.

"I've been told she had plans herself of trying to get a clubhouse for the football club."

St Francis FC currently runs 11 youth teams, and according to its secretary it is "growing every year".

"During Frances' time, when she was part of the club and running the club, I think we had something like 22 teams, so we're trying to get back to that stage," he said.

He told the programme that "in a dream world" they would love to build a clubhouse and also listed a new cafe and training courses among facilities they would like to provide.

'Bit uncomfortable'

However they do not yet know how much the Connolly family plans to donate.

"It's a bit uncomfortable talking about how much because anything that she gives, we'd be totally grateful," Mr Robinson said.

He said it was "beyond words" that Mrs Connolly would "carry the club in heart" and think of them just after finding out she was a multi-millionaire.

"St Francis as a grassroots club is certainly on the map now," he said.

"I've never met Frances herself but I imagine that's something she strived towards, not just on the football pitch but off the pitch as well.

"It's showing everybody the love of the club, the togetherness, the family-orientated background."

He thanked the couple on behalf of the club's management, members, parents and volunteers.

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