A doctor who cycled the length of France to support the Northern Ireland football team in Euro 2016 has raised just over £3,000 for a homeless charity.
Stephen Collins, 27, from Coleraine, covered around 2,100 miles during a 21-day Tour de GAWA (Green and White Army).
He slogged through torrential downpours from Belfast to the Riviera via the Alps then returned across the historic and beautiful region of Provence to Paris.
Dr Collins said: “It was good to see how far I could stretch myself. When I went out most people back home doubted that I would complete it. There were times during the trip when I thought I was not going to complete it.
“There was a real sense of satisfaction in finishing it and feeling like I had accomplished a tough challenge personally.”
He began his journey in Belfast, took the ferry to Cherbourg and reached Nice on the south coast in time for the opening fixture against Poland.
There was a real sense of satisfaction in finishing itDr Stephen Collins
He cheered the team on in Lyon during last month’s victory over Ukraine and pedalled to Paris in atrocious weather for the final group showdown against Germany which took the team into the knock-out stages.
After covering around 100 miles a day, the extra week in the capital turned him into a tourist before the defeat against Wales.
Then he packed his bike into a box and flew home from Paris.
He admitted: “I kind of cheated the last bit. Some people were even unhappy about me using the ferry to get across to France.”
The doctor wants to specialise in sports medicine and starts at the Causeway Hospital on the north coast later this summer.
“It was one of the best months of my life, just absolutely loved it to bits. I got to meet so many fantastic people which I could never have done if I was not on a bike.
“I got to experience so many different cultures from meeting the fans that were playing there. I got to see France in a way that you just could not have if you went in a car.
“To go through those tiny villages and meet people in those tiny bars and bakeries and cafes was a France people going on holiday would never see, so that was a real privilege.”
Street Soccer Northern Ireland is sending a team to the Homeless World Cup in Scotland next week. A potential use for the money raised will be to run the project for a year in Londonderry.