SUPERMARKET worker Mary Byrne has credited Irish support with getting her through a double elimination on ITV reality show 'The X Factor' last night.
Despite falling ill with a virus earlier in the week, the 50-year old was the surprise star of the weekend live shows, receiving the loudest and longest ovation on Saturday night's programme after performing James Brown hit 'It's A Man's World'.
However, she remained on tenterhooks last night as she was the 11th act announced as going through to next week's contest.
Speaking to the Irish Independent she said she credited "Irish votes" as well as "good vibes" from home in Ballyfermot, Dublin, with helping her survive the surprise double elimination.
"I know the Irish people are behind me. I just want to thank them for all the voting they have done for me, and the Tesco people all over the UK for supporting me.
"Isn't it beautiful that an ordinary hard-working woman from Ireland of 50 years of age can be in this position?" she said.
"I'm nearly sure it was the Irish votes that got me through," she said.
"I know the opening of the voting lines in Ireland helped me big time. It really got me over.
"I feel like I'm walking on a cloud. I feel fantastic. My message to the people of Ireland who voted for me is that every little bit helps and I am so grateful to them for loving me. I promise I will do my best to carry on and win."
Last night both Cheryl Cole and Danni Minogue picked Ms Byrne after they were asked by host Dermot O'Leary for their stand-out performers from the first live show of the 2010 'The X Factor'.
"There's something about Mary," joked Minogue.
However, Ms Byrne was playing down her growing star status saying she was only glad she hadn't let down mentor Louis Walsh, who had selected her for the finals.
And she claimed she was ready for the media frenzy under which 2009 finalist Susan Boyle cracked last year.
"Bring it on. I've been looking forward to this so much. I really couldn't tell you," she said.
Along with thanking Irish voters, and mentor Walsh, Ms Byrne said she owed a debt of gratitude to the staff of 'The X Factor' who prepared her for the shows.
"The hairdressers. My God, they did everything in their power to make me and the other contestants look right," she said.
The other Irish finalists -- Rebecca Creighton (21) from Tallaght, Dublin, in girlband Belle Amie and Niall Horan (17) from Mullingar, Co Westmeath, in boyband 1 Direction -- also survived last night's double elimination.
And Walsh was celebrating after his 'Over 28s' groups made it through to next week's show.
"I'm delighted for my acts and for Mary, Rebecca and Niall. It justifies us having 'The X Factor' auditions in Dublin this year. An Irish 'X Factor' winner. It could really happen," he said.
Nicolo Festa became the first act to be booted off as the series started with a double eviction.
The Italian, who is studying in London, polled the lowest number of viewer votes so was automatically kicked out of the competition.
Mr Festa, who had said he wanted to be "a legend", told host O'Leary: "I feel like crap."
His mentor Minogue said she thought he had performed the cover of Lady Gaga's 'Just Dance' fantastically but it was hard to stand out among 16 acts.
Katie Waissel and boyband FYD -- For Your Direction -- polled the next lowest totals of votes and faced a sing-off with their fate decided by the judging panel.
And FYD were the next act to go after only their mentor Simon Cowell opted to keep them.
The five tried to save themselves with a performance of Rihanna's 'Don't Stop The Music'.
However, their fate was sealed when Walsh opted to send them home.
It was a surprising decision from Walsh who told Ms Waissel he had thought she was "more style than substance" at her first audition and had not changed his mind after her performance of Queen's 'We Are The Champions'.