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Trebles all round as NI keeper Hazard leads Celtic to cup glory

Downpatrick rookie the hero in historic day for Bhoys


Hero: Celtic’s Conor Hazard celebrates after making a crucial penalty save in the Scottish Cup final

Hero: Celtic’s Conor Hazard celebrates after making a crucial penalty save in the Scottish Cup final

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Hero: Celtic’s Conor Hazard celebrates after making a crucial penalty save in the Scottish Cup final

A Co Down goalkeeper became a Celtic hero in only his third game for the club after helping them to Scottish Cup glory.

The town of Downpatrick joined in the celebrations after Conor Hazard played a big hand - quite literally - in ensuring the Hoops retained the trophy.

The former St Patrick's Grammar pupil saved two penalties in the shootout after the game against Edinburgh side Hearts finished 3-3 after extra time.

It secured a unique 'quadruple treble' for Neil Lennon's side - who have won the league, Scottish Cup and Scottish Cup in four successive seasons.

And it was Hazard who was the unlikely hero.

The 22-year-old's shootout heroics came in just his third first team game for the Glasgow giants, managed by former Northern Ireland captain Neil Lennon.

Hearts were just a kick from winning the trophy before Hazard's intervention, when he saved from Stephen Kingsley. He then saved from Craig Wighton to snatch the trophy.

Hazard said it was the stuff of dreams, adding: "It's a very proud moment for me and my family.

"I grew up supporting Celtic all my life, so to get the nod today, especially on this momentous occasion, was something I dreamed of.

"I just played the game rather than the occasion. Everyone was very calm. You don't need to put extra pressure on yourself in a game like this."

Yesterday's win marks Lennon's first domestic clean sweep as Celtic manager. The first two were completed under another Northern Ireland boss, Brendan Rodgers, while the two deliver the third between them.

Lennon said: "I think Conor wanted it to go to penalties so he could be the hero. They'll talk about him for a long time now.

"That's only his third senior game (for Celtic) and he has won us the cup. It's fantastic for him.

"We needed Hazzy to pull something out for us after (Hearts goalkeeper) Craig Gordon saved a penalty for them and he did it."

Football's world governing body Fifa led the congratulations for Hazard. It tweeted: "Celtic FC complete the quadruple-treble! Losing in the shootout, rookie goalkeeper Conor Hazard saves Hearts' last two penalties to inspire Celtic to glory in the #ScottishCupFinal. What an achievement!"

Also offering congratulations was ex-Northern Ireland international Stephen Craigan, who hailed Hazard's saves. "He had a tough 120 minutes no doubt about it but when they big moment has arrived in penalties, he has saved two of the five," he said.

Conor's old school said: "Well done to past pupil Conor Hazard who saved two penalties in the shoot out to help Celtic FC win the Scottish Cup today."

Conor is also a former player for St Patrick's Gaelic Athletic Club in Saul, just outside Downpatrick.

It tweeted: "Congratulations to Conor Hazard on a super performance, especially in the penalty shootout and being the hero of the game."

At the start of his footballing career, Hazard played for Ballynagross in the Downpatrick Youth League, before making the switch to Cliftonville.

He has been on the books at Celtic since 2014, having previously had spells out on loan with Falkirk, Partick Thistle, and twice at Dundee.

Belfast Telegraph

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