Winning a life-changing amount of money is something most of us will only ever dream about. Despite this, millions of people in Ireland play the Irish Lotto, EuroMillions or National Lottery every week in the hope of hitting the jackpot and sailing off into the sunset.
But for some lucky characters the dream becomes a reality and with the Irish Lotto paying out a minimum €2million for every jackpot won there is truth in the famous slogan “it could be you!”
In1988, Ronan Collins brought excitement to many Irish homes as families frantically checked their numbers for the very first draw.
To this day millions of Irish people play their lucky numbers every Wednesday and Saturday evening with their fingers firmly crossed.
Here are just 5 of the big winners in Ireland and a glimpse at what they’ve been up to since raking in the cash.
Of course, we are in no way jealous and are all perfectly satisfied with our lot …right?
5 – The Cunningham family: €16.1 million
In July 2007 the Cunningham family from Co. Cork scooped the €16.1 million Lotto jackpot. The couple and their five children (three sons and two daughters) travelled to Dublin by coach to collect their winnings and walked straight into a crowd of journalists and photographers waiting to grab a glimpse of the lucky family.
But the down to earth clan did not embrace the celebrity lifestyle and in an interview with the Irish Times admitted they couldn’t wait to resume normal family life as quickly as possible.
Mother-of-five, Helen Cunningham, who had bought the winning €4 ticket, told the press they were enjoying a “very happy life” before hitting the jackpot, suggesting nothing much would be changing for any of them.
4 – Dan Morrissey syndicate: €18.9 million
On Saturday, June 28, 2008, a group of 15 men and 1 woman working at the Dan Morrissey quarry in Co. Carlow played a Quick Pick in the Irish Lotto. The entry cost them a total of €32 and they bagged a massive €18.9 million for the trouble.
It was the biggest Irish Lotto jackpot ever won and each player walked away with around €1.18 million. A number of the syndicate members were from the same family with a father and daughter and two sets of brothers among the lucky group.
The 16 millionaires, who became local celebrities overnight, quickly went underground. They even took their time collecting their cheque and only a few of them, including Pat Kearnes and Robert Lewis, arrived at work the next day.
3 – ‘The Euro Drivers’: €23.8 million
In July 2016 a syndicate of 22 bus drivers in Dublin shared a whopping €23.8 million in the EuroMillions. The drove their buses to the Lotto headquarters in Abbey Street to claim their prize.
But for one driver it had come as a bonus to an already whirlwind year. Craig Shearer, a father-of-three from Finglas, had beaten cancer after being diagnosed just two years before. He later told the Irish Independent, “This is like a second win for me.”
Despite their big win, syndicate members agreed to continue paying into the EuroMillions fund each week. They also continued to work and donate any money in the pot to sick or bereaved colleagues every Christmas. What a nice bunch!
2 – Dolores McNamara: €115 million
Ireland’s first and biggest EuroMillions winner was Limerick woman Dolores McNamara in 2005. The mum-of-six attracted so much media attention even bosses at the National Lottery headquarters were left star-struck.
In 2012 the former cleaner bought a €3.5million Victorian mansion in Co. Clare as well as houses for each of her children. She went on to invest in her company, Blue Haven but was outbid by Irish Life when she tried to buy a large retail park in her hometown.
But McNamara’s luck had by no means run out and in May 2017 she claimed a further €8,000 in compensation after her Mercedes was “extensively damaged” in a crash two years before. The payout was reportedly half the amount of monthly interest she earns on her EuroMillions win.
1 – Frances and Patrick Connolly: £115 Million
On New Years Day, 2019, Frances and Patrick Connolly from Co. Down won an eye-watering £115 million in the EuroMillions draw. It is the biggest ever EuroMillions win in Northern Ireland and the happy couple plan to do something very special with it.
Shortly after hitting the jackpot the pair spoke to the BBC about their plans. Frances Connolly told the press they had a list of people they want to share their winnings with. “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,” she said.
Her husband, who once ran his own manufacturing firm, said he would use some of the money to create jobs for others while describing the win as “the icing on the cake” as they were already very happy.
The couple were looking forward to doling out cash to the 50 people on their list and taking great pleasure in seeing their faces when they receive it. The perfect ending to a success story I’d say!