GAA Football

Eoghan Hampsey: Coalisland are a never-say-die team

Eoghan Hampsey in action during Coalisland's Tyrone final win over Killyclogher Picture by Philip Walsh
Francis Mooney

GOALSCORERS Paddy McNeice and Peter McGahan grabbed the headlines as Coalisland triumphed in the Tyrone SFC final on Sunday, but less glamorous contributions were equally important at Healy Park.

Firepower at the other end had to be addressed, and Eoghan Hampsey was the man chosen to curtail the threat of Killyclogher’s ace attacker Mark Bradley.

And there will be more man-marking challenges ahead, most notably in the short term against Ulster Club Championship rivals Crossmaglen next weekend.

The 22-year-old corner-back repaid the faith shown in him by managers Damian O’Hagan and Peter Herron by rising brilliantly to the biggest challenge of his career, holding the Tyrone star to a single point from play.

“I knew I had a big job to do. I knew I was marking him since Friday night, and I just went home and thought about it,” said Hampsey.

“I knew Mark Bradley is a brilliant asset to this Killyclogher team, and I knew what my job was, so I sat down and analysed a lot of his games.

“I knew what was in store, I knew he’s fast to that first ball.”

Perhaps it was big match nerves that affected the Fianna defender in the opening minute as Bradley slipped past him to swing over a delightful point.

But thereafter, it as a textbook man-marking job as Hampsey settled to deliver the perfect defensive performance.

“I wasn’t getting close enough to him for that first ball. In the first half he did get the better of me, but in the second half I tried to go at him more.

“He went out the field looking for more ball, and then that’s where I got on more ball too.

“It was a very good battle with Mark Bradley, he’s a great player. Second half the whole lot of us worked hard.”

Living in the shadow of older brother Padraig, a Tyrone sensation and Allstar nominee for the last two seasons, Eoghan seized his opportunity to step forward and make the most of a huge occasion.

“It’s great to see Padraig playing the way he has this year, he has had a brilliant year,” he said.

“There’s times people say to me, are you not jealous? I’m never jealous, he is my brother and I love to see him doing well.

“But I just knew it was a real big day for me, and it was my time to step up to the plate. I knew who I was marking, I knew he was a big player, and I knew this was my time.”

Tiernan McCann’s goal just before half-time gave Killyclogher a massive boost, but Coalisland had come from behind in every championship game this season, and Hampsey had no doubt they would do so again.

“Throughout the championship we have had big hills to climb. We went behind in the Dromore game, and in the Errigal Ciaran game. But we are a never-say-die team and we just kept fighting back.

“At half-time, Padraig spoke up and said ‘boys, be positive, that was a great half, always have a positive mind-frame’.

“And that’s what we did, we went out and we knew the points would come with that wind in our backs.”

A heavy defeat to Killyclogher in the replayed county final of 2016 caused a lot of hurt in the Coalisland club, but Hampsey insisted there was no desire for revenge as they met again in this year’s decider: “There were people saying to us that it was revenge. It’s not revenge.

“The second day, we didn’t get going whatsoever, it just wasn’t for us. Killyclogher couldn’t miss, Mark Bradley was scoring from the sidelines.

“On the first day when we drew with them, it was there to be taken, but we missed our chance. But this year we were the better team, we battled harder.”

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