Niall Horan is living the dream

In the space of 12 weeks the boy band One Direction became the biggest in the UK and Ireland, and among the group's five members is Niall Horan from County Westmeath.

In the space of 12 weeks the boy band One Direction became the biggest in the UK and Ireland, and among the group's five members is Niall Horan from County Westmeath.

"It's been crazy. Since I got home (to Mullingar) I haven't been able to walk down the street without people stopping me. It's really great," said Niall in speaking to the Leader this week.

Making it to the X Factor Final night, Niall and his four colleagues performed to an audience of 21 million viewers across the UK and Ireland.

"It was a case that everyone was a winner on that night," said Niall who performed with Robbie Williams and Take That over the Finals weekend.

Matt Cardle took the title of overall winner of the X Factor 2010.

"I was delighted for Matt (Cardle) though. He's a good friend of mine at this stage."

However, for Niall, X Factor has changed his life particularly in relation to the legion of fans who now follow him and One Direction.

"You wouldn't believe how big X Factor is in England. It was mental. We became the biggest boy band on the block. I didn't know what it was like back home but over there there were about 200 girls camping outside the studios," he said.

Speaking about meeting Robbie Williams, Niall said: "He is one of the nicest fellas you could meet. It is your average London guy and he was so welcoming to us. He was telling me all about his visit to the Late Late Show!"

For Niall, the most memorable moments of the whole X Factor competition were performing with Robbie and Take That, and meeting Michael Buble.

But what about the man himself, Simon Cowell?

"I couldn't believe that I was getting to work with Simon Cowell. We would be in Simon's office and I remember thinking 'No one gets to go in here'. When we went to the judges' houses we were scared of Simon but he was so helpful to us. He's got the best personality," said Niall. "I think (the sternness) is just his 'telly face'! He's a great laugh really and gave us a lot of time to think of the songs that we wanted to do ourselves and what we wanted to wear."

On the night of the Final, Simon turned to Liam Payne, Zain Malik, Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles and Niall and told them, 'Go out there and be the boy band you want to be'.

Looking forward to the future, Niall and the boys are hoping that Simon Cowell will sign them for a record deal.

"We're hoping for a record deal," confirmed Niall who will be spending much of 2011 travelling with the X Factor tour.

Niall's mother, Maura Gallagher, living in Edgeworthstown, spent many weekends in London over the course of the X Factor competition, and is delighted with Niall's success.

"They (One Direction) did brilliantly. It was great to be there to support them. We were a bit disappointed when they didn't get into the final two, but they did so well. They really handled it great. Who ever thinks that their child will get that far?" said Maura, speaking to the Leader.

"Niall's life is about to change. It's all like a big dream but it's one of those dreams that came true."