Padraig Hampsey poses for a portrait during a Tyrone senior football media conference at Tyrone GAA Centre in Garvaghey, Tyrone.
Padraig Hampsey poses for a portrait during a Tyrone senior football media conference at Tyrone GAA Centre in Garvaghey, Tyrone. 

No frills Hampsey leading Tyrone by example


By John Harrington

Pádraig Hampsey is a real defender’s defender.

The Tyrone captain can do the pretty stuff too as he showed with a brilliant point against Kerry, but it’s the gritty, no frills art of defending in which he excels.

A hand in here, a bone-jarring shoulder there, you know if Hampsey is marking you that you’ve a uncomfortable afternoon ahead of you.

The description ‘no-nonsense’ defender is over-used but certainly an apt one for Hampsey who combines controlled aggression with a knack for doing the simple things really well.

He’s been better than ever this year, and it’s surely no coincidence that his own philosophy on how the game should be played reflects that of Tyrone’s new joint-managers, Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan.

“Yeah, look, Brian has been there and done that,” says Hampsey. “He has led by example as a footballer and he’s doing the same as a manager.

“A no bullshit attitude and he can sense things. He just knows when things aren’t right. He’d pull you to the side. He’s keeping lads grounded. You’re just working hard and putting your head down and he’s keeping you focused.

“That’s the way he wants it and I suppose that’s the best way to have it. Look it, we’re thankful for Brian and Feargal, who’s a great man and has done plenty for us lads this year.”

You can see why Dooher and Logan chose Hampsey to be their captain. They want strong characters in their team who lead by example on the pitch and don’t need to be mollycoddled to get the best from them.

Conor McManus of Monaghan in action against Pádraig Hampsey of Tyrone during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Monaghan and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin.
Conor McManus of Monaghan in action against Pádraig Hampsey of Tyrone during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Monaghan and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin.

Captaining the team is a responsibility that the Coalisland man takes very seriously.

“I remember they pulled me to the side and they explained they were putting me in a new role,” he said.

“It was a very proud moment for myself. To be taking the role from the likes of Mattie Donnelly, who I’ve learned a lot off as a captain and is still a great leader to this day. I’ve learned an awful lot from him as a player as well. It was massive for myself and I’m very thankful to Brian and Feargal for it.

“I just try and keep the head down and work hard on the training pitch. As I’ve said in many interviews, there are plenty of leaders in the panel even the likes of Kieran (McGeary), who is vice-captain, and he plays a massive role and is a great leader himself.

“There are many in the panel who lead by example and it makes my experience a lot easier and it takes a weight off my shoulders. I’m very thankful to those lads for sharing the whole thing.”

Hampsey believes the collective leadership in the group really came to the fore in the wake of Tyrone’s six-goal hammering in the League against Kerry in June.

With the benefit of hindsight now, he knows the manner in which everyone reacted to that chastening defeat laid the foundations for beating the same opponents in the All-Ireland semi-final.

“I suppose coming home out of Killarney that day was a turning point for us,” he says. “We went back to training on the Tuesday and we had a real hard look at ourselves as players and did we really go out and do the county proud that day, which we didn’t.

“We just knew there was a lot to brush up on and we knew there was going to be a lot of tough nights up here, which there was.

“We had a couple of tough sessions and lads just put their shoulders to the wheel and believed if we got things right and stuck together that we had the players and the squad to go places and thankfully we’ve done that.”

Padraig Hampsey, left, and Conor Meyler of Tyrone celebrate after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin.
Padraig Hampsey, left, and Conor Meyler of Tyrone celebrate after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin.

So what sort of speech can we expect from Hampsey on the steps of the Hogan Stand if Tyrone are triumphant on Sunday?

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that’s not something he’s given much consideration to, there’s a game to be won first after all.

“The likes of the speeches and stuff, you’d only be worrying about them on the day,” he says. “You’d just be worrying about performing and doing the county proud.

“As a captain, I’m not really that type of person. I like leading by example and that’s the way I like to go about my business.”