GAA Football

Padraig Hampsey: Tyrone's pointless start was overblown

Padraig Hampsey has been happy with Tyrone's recent displays.

TYRONE defender Padraig Hampsey has defended the county’s recent performances after they moved a step closer to Division One safety at the weekend.

Given that only two teams this century have been relegated from the top flight having achieved six points (Cork in 2016 and Roscommon in 2003), a win over either Mayo or Kerry in their final two games would more than likely be enough to keep the Red Hands safe.

While there are all manner of potential scenarios, including one where five teams could all finish level on six points and relegation come down to score difference, Tyrone’s fate is in their own hands.

The win over Donegal was a second success in three games for the Red Hands, who suffered a one-point reverse to Monaghan in between victories over Kildare and Declan Bonner’s side, and Hampsey feels as though their pointless start had been overblown.

“Our performance was an improvement, even though I think we've been playing fairly well despite getting a lot of criticism. I think we're going well, this win was a good win and hopefully we'll take it into next week as well.

“We're not focusing on any particular team like Donegal or Dublin. We're taking it game by game and we've now got Mayo coming up next weekend. That's going to be getting our full attention and then whoever else comes under our focus after that.”

Since breaking into the team, Hampsey has gone on to become recognised as one of the country’s top and most versatile defenders, earning an Allstar nomination last year.

He was again charged with picking up Michael Murphy in Omagh and in keeping the Donegal talisman scoreless from play, repeated his dominant display from last year’s Ulster semi-final.

The Donegal gameplan did alter as a result of Patrick McBrearty’s enforced absence through injury, and Murphy spent a significant portion of the night at full-forward.

He looked rusty and was often let down by the lack of quality in the service, but Hampsey was stuck to him like glue and made a number of valuable interventions.

“Michael Murphy has been there and done that with Donegal and it's always tough because he's an exceptional player. He's always looking for the ball and moving around and it's about trying to stay tight to home. Sometimes he's going to get the score and it's just about trying to prevent him as much as possible.

“I thought that they would have used the high ball in more often. But the likes of Colm Cavanagh coming back and sweeping up was a great addition. Murphy had a good game too.”

Much has been made of Tyrone’s difficulties at Healy Park in recent seasons, where they’ve won just 7 of their 16 Division One games (43.75 per cent) since 2013.

To turn that on its head, if you include their 2016 Division Two campaign, they’ve only lost to Dublin (this year) and Mayo (last year by a single point) in Omagh in the last three season.

“Every win is important, but we were sitting on two points and just knew that the win had to be achieved against Donegal,” said Hampsey.

“That was especially the case with home advantage and thankfully the players stuck together and came away with the win, which was definitely needed.

“You need to be laying down a marker for the home matches. We went six ahead and then Donegal got their goal. But fair play to everybody for weathering that storm because you're always going to be a bit worried.

“The lads got that extra bit for the closing stages, the defence kept firm and the forwards got a few scores to settle things again. Mark Bradley and Lee Brennan with the free kicks were brilliant and did the business.

“It's all about taking things one game at a time and obviously Mayo next weekend is going to be another big one. Tyrone always get it tough against them because they’re such a good side with good forwards, which has been shown by them getting to the All-Ireland final in the past couple of years.”

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