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GAA star escapes Egyptian chaos in time for crunch game

Derry GAA and Glenavon soccer player Eoin Bradley on the pitch for his Glenullin team's match against Slaughtneil on Sunday just after returning to Ireland hours earlier from being stranded in Egypt. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

DERRY GAA star and Glenavon striker Eoin Bradley made it home in time for a crucial relegation battle after being stranded in Egypt along with thousands of fellow holidaymakers.

Bradley (31), his children Cahir (10) and Cara (5) and girlfriend Emma O'Neill had been on a week's holiday at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort when security concerns over a downed Russian Airbus A321, believed to have been blown up by Islamic State (IS) militants, led to all flights to Britain and Ireland being cancelled.

They finally arrived home on Sunday morning after a two day delay as selected flights began operating again.

However, 'Skinner' barely had time for a shower before heading off to play in Glenullin's final fixture of the season against county champions Slaughtneil.

While the Derry club's last chance to secure the single point needed to keep them in Division One ended in the slimmest of defeats, Slaughtneil 1-9 Glenullin 2-5, the Kilrea-born sportsman was just happy to be home again.

Around 200 Irish people were caught up in the Egyptian travel chaos, which saw families camped out at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport amid mounting confusion over their return travel plans.

"Of course we're glad to be home, but at the end of the day we could have been much worse off," he told The Irish News.

"At least we did get home, unlike the people who died on that other plane."

Originally due to travel home last Thursday, Bradley's family were twice turned away from Sharm el-Sheik airport before finally getting a flight.

The delay meant the Glenavon forward missed the Lurgan Blues' resounding 5-1 demolition of league rivals Ballinamallard.

Unlike many stranded in Sharm el-Sheik, Bradley and his family were able to stay in their hotel for an extra couple of days, with Eoin relying on his phone's easyJet App for updates on their flights.

"We were well enough treated," he said. "The worst bit was not knowing when we were getting home, the packing and unpacking – and of course I was disappointed to miss the match on Saturday.

"But as I say, it doesn't compare to what other people are going through."

The GAA star had a final glimpse of the travel chaos before boarding their plane home on Saturday.

"Yesterday when we were coming through, there were crowds and crowds of people, pushing and shoving, arguing and fighting," he said.

"It's a wonder nobody was hurt. The airport is a bit of a joke to be honest."

Nearly 2,000 tourists returned to the UK yesterday aboard nine flights, along with around 1,500 on Friday.

Some holidaymakers described chaotic scenes as they left the Red Sea city airport, with people trampled and hurt as they rushed for planes while swamped security staff carried out only cursory checks.

Thousands more are still stranded in the Egyptian holiday resort and yesterday a UK Department for Transport spokesman said that "it is likely that tour operators or airlines will advise some people to extend their stay at their resort."

Air crash investigators have revealed an unidentified noise was picked up by the doomed Russian plane's before it broke up suddenly in mid-flight over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

There have also been reports that security agencies intercepted communications between Sinai militants which point towards a bomb on the plane, possibly placed inside or on top of luggage just before take-off.

A team of investigators from five countries and advisers from Airbus are now examining the wreckage in Cairo.

Developments came as a service was held in St Petersburg yesterday for the 224 victims of the Russian passenger plane that crashed in the Sinai desert last weekend.

Most of the passengers were from St Petersburg and the surrounding region.

Hundreds turned out as the bell of St Isaac's Cathedral tolled 224 times in memory of each person killed and a chamber choir sang as several hundred mourners looked on.

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