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Family's joy as Mary O'Neill (11) returns home for first time since being knocked down in January

Mary O'Neill (11) in her Kickhams Creggan colours at home with parents Kevin and Amelia, brother Fintan and sister Katie. Picture from Kickhams Creggan GAC

THE family of a girl knocked down after stepping off a school bus in Co Antrim have spoken of their joy as she was able to return home for the first time.

Mary O'Neill (11) and her brother Fintan (14) were critically injured when they were struck by a car while crossing a road near Randalstown in January.

Although Fintan is now recovering at home and back at St Patrick's College, Maghera on a part-time basis, Mary is facing a stay of "many months" more in hospital after suffering head injuries in the collision.

In a statement posted on the website of Kickhams Creggan GAC yesterday, the family said it wished to thank the community for all their support and posted a photograph of Mary sporting the club colours.

They said: "Today was a great day for us. Mary got home for a few hours this morning, it was a very emotional but happy time for us all.

"Mary continues to fight infections, particularly in her lungs, but she has come a long way from what anyone expected.

Mary O'Neill (11) is facing a long stay in hospital after suffering head injuries in the collision in January. Picture by Declan Roughan

"She has good control in her right arm and slight movement in her left arm. She had been learning sign language to communicate with us but over the last week she has started to say a few words.

"Fintan had the pins removed from his leg over Easter and is now in a cast for six weeks. He has recovered well and has started back to school part time."

They added: "We don't know how long Mary will remain in hospital but it is likely to be many months yet."

Members of the GAA club, based in Randalstown, met in the weeks following the accident on Staffordstown Road to pray the rosary for the family, and in March raised more than £40,000 at a breakfast event and raffle.

Members of Kickhams Creggan GAC had been praying the rosary each week for Mary and Fintan following the crash. Picture by Declan Roughan

The family said they will "never be able to thank everyone in person but please know we are grateful for all the support, prayers, messages and donations we have received".

"Our lives have changed over the last few months and we are extremely humbled by the support we have been shown in many different ways."

They added: "We ask that you continue to pray not only for Mary but all sick children, all the hospital staff that help care for them all our family and friends and anyone affected by this terrible accident."

The family said it wished to thank the community for their support. Picture by Declan Roughan

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