Nothing beats winning with your friends: Tyrone defender Padraig Hampsey
TYRONE full-back Padraig Hampsey says winning with players he came through the ranks with has made this summer even more special.
Hampsey will hope to add an All-Ireland senior medal to the one he collected at U21 level three years ago.
At that stage, the Coalisland man was already being touted as a future full-back for Mickey Harte's side.
Hampsey has come through the underage ranks with the likes of Frank Burns, Mark Bradley, Cathal McShane, Lee Brennan and Kieran McGeary – all of whom have graduated to the senior ranks since 2015.
“We've always had that close bond – the likes Frank Burns, Kieran McGeary, Lee Brennan – there are plenty of other lads,” Hampsey said.
“It's a class feeling to get there with those boys. I've been on a long road with them from minor and senior and now at senior level.
“Coming from minor, through the U21s, we were beaten on the road to an All-Ireland title in the minors but the U21s got an All-Ireland.
“We always wanted to get there on the big days. Now we've got there [to an All-Ireland final], anything can happen.”
The former amateur boxer had a solid campaign last year with the Red Hands – but he's improved considerably over the last 12 months, to such an extent that Harte entrusts him with marking the opposition's most dangerous player.
After curtailing the influence of Donegal's Michael Murphy in the last round of the Super 8s, Hampsey was given the man-marking role of Monaghan's Conor McManus in last Sunday's narrow All-Ireland semi-final win, limiting the Clontibret man to just one point from play.
“It was always going to be tough; he's a class act,” said Hampsey (24).
“He's up there with the best forwards in Ireland. He's smart. He bought a few frees but I'd cover there with Collie [Cavanagh] coming back.”
After McManus fired over an early point from play, Hampsey didn't panic.
“I was just thinking of the next ball, next ball, that's all I was thinking about. I knew he was going to get a chance and to be fair he took it. I enjoyed it, it was a good tussle.”
Relief was the overwhelming emotion as the Tyrone players left Croke Park on Sunday evening and they now have 19 days to prepare for defending champions Dublin in this year's All-Ireland final.
“It's a surreal feeling. For people in Tyrone it's a massive thing to reach an All-Ireland. It's been 10 years. It's one to look forward to and we'll enjoy these next few weeks.
“I was at the [last] final in 2008. I was in the Cusack stand with my 'oul fella. It was always class being there on the big day and it's something to look forward to be playing in this one.
“Finals are there to be played for. There's always pressure and it's always going to be nerve wrecking. I'm a nervous player as it is!
“Dublin are the level you want to get to. They are a class team. They're going for four in-a-row and it's going to be very tough, but we'll try our best.”