Northern Ireland

Downpatrick fans raise a glass to Celtic hero Conor Hazard

Celtic's Scott Brown lifts goalkeeper Conor Hazard as they celebrate winning the penalty shootout, during the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park on Sunday. Picture by Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.
Celtic's Scott Brown lifts goalkeeper Conor Hazard as they celebrate winning the penalty shootout, during the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park on Sunday. Picture by Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. Celtic's Scott Brown lifts goalkeeper Conor Hazard as they celebrate winning the penalty shootout, during the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park on Sunday. Picture by Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.

Celtic hero Conor Hazard’s dramatic treble-winning penalty saves on Sunday were celebrated with particular passion back in his home GAA club in Downpatrick.

But for the call of the green and white of Celtic, Hazard could still be wearing the blue and gold of St Patrick’s, Saul or even the red and black of Down.

The Downpatrick man became a Celtic legend on Sunday when he pulled off two dramatic penalty saves against Hearts at Hampden Park to give the Glasgow club a record-breaking quadruple domestic treble.

Playing just his third full game for the Celtic first team, it was left to the 22-year-old Northern Ireland international to step into the breach when the Scottish Cup Final ended three-all after extra time.

His heroics also found particular favour back home in the GAA club where he played as a child and teenager. Saul CLG secretary, Mark McGrath said everyone at the Downpatrick club was delighted that one of their own had achieved such glory.

“He would have been playing for us from under-tens right up to under-16. I remember a few years back he nearly won the under-16 county final for us against Burren when he came on as a sub after playing for Northern Ireland that morning.

“Everyone here’s very proud of him. If you look at our Facebook page, you’ll see his successes are mentioned frequently,” the St Patrick’s club man said.

Hazard retains the closest of links with Saul where his brother, Jack is net minder for the County Down club and his mum and dad, Patricia and Gary are strong supporters.

“Jack was on the team that won the Intermediate Championship this year and he has a few cousins playing underage for us; he comes out to watch them when he’s home and gets a chance,” Mr McGrath said.

As Hoops’ fans continued to celebrate, Lurgan man and Celtic manager, Neil Lennon had his own thoughts on the three goals scored against Hazard which led to the penalty shoot-out.

The delighted manager said: “I think he just wanted to go to penalties to show-off and be the hero but again he’s written his own piece of history in the club with two fantastic saves when we really needed them. It’s only his third senior game so it’s a great achievement for him.”