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Proposing in a deserted alley... Belfast Giants ice star Ciaran Long melts local woman Hannah Kempton's heart

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The moment he proposed

The moment he proposed

Romantic: Belfast Giant Ciaran Long and fiancee Hannah

Romantic: Belfast Giant Ciaran Long and fiancee Hannah

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The moment he proposed

Belfast Giants star Ciaran Long found more than just a job in Belfast - he found the love of his life as well.

The ice hockey ace popped the question to girlfriend Hannah Kempton, who is from Portadown and works for Agro Merchants, on Sunday after 15 months together.

Not only that, but the couple will have a memory to cherish forever after photographer Ryan Hitchman caught the big moment on a completely deserted Commercial Court outside the Duke of York pub, where they first met in August of last year.

With coronavirus restrictions preventing people from being out and about, the pair found themselves alone in the famous cobblestoned alley, and Ciaran got down on one knee in an idyllic setting.

The original plan wasn't even for the proposal to happen where it did. Had things gone as intended, Ciaran would have popped the question on New Year's Eve.

But when Covid forced that plan to be cancelled, he - with the help of Hannah's friend Roisin and his sister Stacey - had to improvise.

"My family were supposed to be coming over and then we'd go up to the north coast with Hannah's parents. My plan was to do it on the beach up there and then Covid decided to ruin my plans. I was losing my mind," he said.

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"Roisin and my sister, they kept their heads while I was coming up with the most ridiculous ideas, because I didn't want to push it back. We agreed I had to do it by the end of the year, so we didn't want to go past that.

"Roisin then asked was I going to be in Belfast, and we were actually going on Sunday, which was perfect because I could take her back to where we met."

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The moment he proposed

The moment he proposed

The moment he proposed

Fortunately, on this occasion every detail went right. While the proposal was planned, as was having Hitchman waiting for the big moment, the couple got a nice surprise when they found the street deserted.

"An absolute coincidence - we couldn't believe it when we walked under the archway. I thought to myself: 'Oh my God, this is perfect'," said Ciaran.

"The funniest thing was, I had Ryan waiting down there and I could see him poking his head around the corner."

The lovebirds met on a night out at the Duke of York, and within a month they were a couple. When Covid arrived, forcing the cancellation of the Giants' season in March, the pair moved in together in Portadown.

Ciaran recalls the moment he first saw Hannah and admits he has fellow ice hockey star Mike Folkes - who played for Long's former side Manchester Storm - and his wife Hilary to thank for their influence in the budding relationship.

"Hannah had friends over from Canada with her and Mike played for the Storm a couple of years before I did," he explained.

"I saw her walk in and I said to Hooky (Giants team-mate Lewis Hook): 'We need to find a way to talk to her somehow'. They went to the bar, so we went over too, and we heard Mike speak in a Canadian accent, so that was handy. Then it went from there."

The plan, provisionally, is for a wedding in the summer of 2023 in order to allow the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic to pass, but first there's a more pressing matter to take care of - framing that picture.

"Definitely," he said.

"I think we'll get a few of them framed.

"I can't believe how incredible they are, they came out perfect. I couldn't have asked for anything more. Even talking about it now, I'm still shaking."


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