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Celtic stopper Hazard keen to kick on with Northern Ireland after international debut

Proud moment: Conor Hazard earned his first cap for NI
Proud moment: Conor Hazard earned his first cap for NI

By Paul Ferguson

Proud young Celtic goalkeeper Conor Hazard admitted he took great personal satisfaction from making his international debut on Sunday - despite Northern Ireland losing 3-0 to Costa Rica.

Michael O'Neill's men were already three goals in arrears when 20-year-old Hazard, who played 12 games on loan at Falkirk last season, came on for Trevor Carson with 18 minutes to go. With the game won, Hazard was never really tested by Los Ticos but he revelled in playing in front of 35,000 passionate home fans who were in party mood during their side's farewell home match before Russia and the World Cup finals.

He also insisted he loved savouring the taste of senior international football and could get used to it.

"Obviously, it's a great achievement for me, coming on, making my debut," said the former Cliftonville stopper.

"We're all disappointed in the changing room but it's a good achievement for me and hopefully there's more to come.

"I thought I did everything correct and well. It's been a great tour. Obviously the weather's been something that we haven't been used to. Training's been a lot harder than what we expected. It was good coming to this type of environment, it's my first time in Central America. It's a great football atmosphere to be involved as well.

"I knew when the squad was announced I'd be coming away. I found out when the emails came through. I was delighted. I was involved in the squad for South Korea so I'll hopefully be called in even more.

"I've just been out on the pitch and experienced my debut, it's something I could get used to.

"But honestly I didn't know I was going to get on at all. I thought maybe there was a chance at half-time, but that didn't come. It took me by surprise but I'm delighted."

After applauding the Northern Ireland fans in the Estadio Nacional stands, Hazard made sure he kept his shirt and gloves and, when he made it back to the dressing room, checked his phone for messages but, sadly due to a lack of Wi-Fi, he only received one.

"I'll take them (shirt and gloves) home and see my mum and dad," he said.

"I'll probably give them to them. See what they plan to do with them. They were watching the match on the BBC. I got a text from my dad saying, 'Happy days'. I've no data here so I'll just have to wait until I get back to the hotel."

Hazard, who joined Celtic in 2014 and was promoted to the first team squad in 2017 by boss Brendan Rodgers, was the second goalkeeper on this tour to make his debut after Leeds' Bailey Peacock-Farrell featured against Panama.

The Downpatrick lad is determined to be a success at Parkhead, however he wants first team matches and accepts Rodgers may prefer for him to go out on loan again next season to build up his experience.

"I've three years left on my Celtic deal, so I'll do my best in pre-season and see what happens from there," he added.

"I'll have to see what happens in pre-season. Obviously (another loan) is the manager's decision and the coaching staff's decision. All I'm going to do in pre-season is work my butt off and hopefully something comes of it.

"It was good at Falkirk last season. I got 12 games. It was my first time getting first-team experience so I'm glad I have that under my belt now."

Our coverage of Northern Ireland's tour to play Panama and Costa Rica is brought to you in conjunction with BetMcLean.

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