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£115m jackpot winners plan to share their windfall

'Unreal': Frances and Patrick Connolly, from Moira in Northern Ireland, scooped nearly £115million in the New Year's Day lottery draw PICTURES: PA

A COUPLE who scooped a £115million EuroMillions jackpot on New Year’s Day have described how they plan to share their good fortune with loved ones.

Frances and Patrick Connolly, from Moira in Northern Ireland, have begun drawing up a list of family and friends which currently stands at 50, none of whom have been told of their imminent windfalls.

Mrs Connolly, 52, said: ‘This is a massive sum of money and we want it to have a huge impact on the lives of other people we know and love as well as on our future too.

‘This win gives us the chance to really make a difference for our family and friends.

‘I always hoped we would win the lottery one day, but when we did, it would be just our luck that lots of others would win on the same day with the same numbers too — never in my wildest dreams did I think we would ever win almost £115million.’

Cheers: The couple celebrated ‘with a cup of tea and a hug’

Mr Connolly, 54, said the win felt ‘unreal’.

The couple said they sat in silence after they realised they had won, struggling to take it in.

Mrs Connolly said: ‘We don’t really do excited — perhaps I raised my voice just a bit at the time when I found out — but we celebrated with a cup of tea and a hug.’

Mr Connolly said: ‘We really didn’t know what to do or how to react and we didn’t sleep a wink that night. We rang Camelot at 8am in the morning to verify the win.

‘Then it started to dawn on us that it was true, even though it still hasn’t really sunk in.’

Lucky couple: The Connollys won £2.60 the previous week

The couple, who have been together for 30 years and have three grown-up daughters and three grandchildren, are still deciding how to treat themselves.

Mrs Connolly would like to buy a second-hand Jaguar and her husband says he just wants to shower his wife with gifts, although a holiday to Mauritius could be on the cards as well as trips to watch rugby matches and an F1 grand prix.

They pair live in a rented home and were considering a move to Croydon in March as Mr Connolly had been offered a job as an operations manager.

But since finding out about the win, he has decided to retire for now.

Mrs Connolly has worked previously as an educational programme co-ordinator and is planning to do a PhD in clinical psychology.

The winning EuroMillions numbers on 1 January were 01, 08, 11, 25, 28 and Lucky Stars numbers 04 and 06.

The Connollys are the fourth biggest UK winners and the biggest from Northern Ireland.

In July 2011, Colin and Chris Weir, from Ayrshire, became the biggest lottery winners in the UK, and across Europe, when they scooped more than £161million.

Adrian and Gillian Bayford, from Suffolk, took home more than £148million in August 2012 while the biggest prize awarded in the country in 2018 was £121million, handed to an anonymous winner in April.

Mr Connolly is a businessman and Mrs Connolly a teacher who has been off work due to a leg injury. She said: ‘I’m going to cry myself to sleep that I can’t help everybody. That will be really tough.’

She said she would spend some of the money supporting a community football club in Hartlepool that she used to work with, St Francis FC. The couple lived in Hartlepool for 25 years.

Asked whether she would have to increase her personal security, she joked: ‘I’ve never met anybody I couldn’t take down myself, to be fair.’

Mrs Connolly, who said their ticket was a lucky dip, insisted the win would not change them as people.

Noting her mobility problems, she indicated a huge mansion was not on the cards.

‘I want a bungalow because I can’t walk up the stairs,’ she said. ‘There’s no way I’m joining the jet set.’

The couple are regular Lotto players but only normally bought tickets for EuroMillions when there was a big jackpot. Mr Connolly bought his lucky ticket online.

He said he checked the results on his laptop later that night and then turned to his wife and said: ‘I think I’ve got some good news for you.’

Mrs Connolly said when she saw her husband was looking at the lottery she realised they must have won something.

‘I said it must be more than £2.60,’ she joked. ‘We won £2.60 the week before.’

The couple went public with their news at the luxury Culloden Hotel in Co Down this morning.