‘I’m proud Niall has held his head and has respect for others,’ says Bobby

Even to Bobby Horan; it’s incredible to imagine that 10 years have passed since his teenage son Niall, still only a schoolboy, began the One Direction experience.

“It was like yesterday really when you think about it – although every year flies by at this stage!” he told the Westmeath Examiner this week.

“It’s been 10 years and it was a great five years with One Direction – and it’s been a great five years since Niall went solo. He has outshone himself really as a solo artist.”

But if Bobby has a regret about Niall’s stratospheric success, it’s only that he lost out on the few extra years Niall might have lived at home had fame not come knocking so rapidly.

“Initially you got caught up in the excitement of it, but when he moved away, he was just 16.

“In these times people don’t move away at 16; they might move away to college at 18 or 19.

“Maybe people of previous generations moved away to England at 16 or 17 but the last two generations haven’t really done that. So it was unique in that way and there was great excitement at the start.”

However, he continues, the upshot of that was that Niall ended up doing his growing up in the media eye.

“And that’s how we saw it as well: if you wanted to find out about Niall – apart from the phone call he’d give you – you would find out off fans or you would find out from the media what he was up to.

“If you remember that programme The Teenage Years, well ‘the teenage years’ to us were really gone, and that in one sense is the other edge to it.”

It was all quite sudden, and he remembers that after Niall moved out to pursue his X-Factor dream, the house felt very empty.

“But having said that, it’s what he wants to do; it’s what he loves to do; it shines out a mile that it is what he loves doing, and everybody says that about him.

“And the thing I am most proud of about him is the way he has held his head. I am more proud of that than anything he has done. At the end of the day you’d like your children to grow up with respect for other people, and he has done that and I have to commend him for that.

“And Greg also, and I can say I am very proud of both of my sons.”

Alongside music, golf was a zeal for Niall from an early age: “When his friends started playing golf in the junior club in Mullingar and he wanted to play, thanks to Frank McKeown and a few others, we got him in and he loved the game. He loved being with his friends and it was a great place to be in the summer. He spent ages out there and was well looked after and he grew to love that equally to his music – well, I won’t say equally but near enough.”

A shared passion between father and son was – and remains – the fate and fortunes of Derby County Football Club.

“When he was a child we would go over at least once a month. And he was a mascot for Derby in a game against Luton Town when he was about 13: the Irish International Jeff Kenna sorted that out – we met him one night on the plane coming back.”

Niall’s career made that sort of dedication to Derby difficult: “The last game I was at with Niall prior to this season was Derby and Chelsea: that was about six years ago. And this year we got in two games – they were disastrous results but still it was good to be with him.”

The arrival of Covid has provided a great irony: for the first time in years, because everything has ground to a halt, Niall could in theory afford to spend time in Mullingar – but because of the clampdown on movement he can’t: “Like it was my birthday last Saturday – I had a big birthday age wise. He was to come but he couldn’t come in the end.”

The last time he was home in Mullingar was last Christmas, but when he does return, he keeps things low key: “He keeps his life private and doesn’t want to be in the limelight at all,” said Bobby.