GAA Football

Tyrone's Padraig Hampsey training hard for success

Padraig Hampsey of Tyrone at the launch of the Allianz Hurling & Football Leagues for 2019 in the Merchant Hotel, Belfast.
Picture by Hugh Russell

PARTYING isn’t really Padraig Hampsey’s cup of tea – or anything stronger – but the Tyrone star is still setting his sights on celebrating some top level silverware this year.

Having helped his club Coalisland to the Tyrone title and then won a PwC Allstar, it was a pretty good 2018 for the 24-year-old, who chose to return to his home-town to get away from the – euphemism alert – ‘student lifestyle’ in Belfast.

Although he won Ulster titles in his teens, those were in boxing, and it’s only in recent years that he’s dedicated himself fully to football.

“It was actually my first club medal, I had no youth medals at all, so it was a serious feeling. It was a very good year, playing in an All-Ireland Final and then obviously winning the championship with Coalisland was the icing on the cake. It was class, definitely. The Allstar was a nice one to pick up too, definitely.”

The task now is to win at senior level with Tyrone, either the National League Division One, the Ulster SFC, or the big one, the All-Ireland SFC, having reached last year’s decider against Dublin, who won for the fourth year in a row.

“We do take it one game at a time, but obviously long-term those are the things you want to be aiming for as well, there’s no point in lying.

“They are what we will be aiming for – but Kerry is the only focus this weekend.”

Recovery from a groin problem will prevent Hampsey from playing in Killarney but there’s no better man to get himself in the best possible shape.

A personal trainer, he is a model ‘professional’ in terms of preparation, despite having walked away from a Sports and Exercise Science degree at Ulster University (Jordanstown).

“It was more the way of living that I didn’t enjoy, living down in Belfast, to be honest the lifestyle wasn’t for me. I just pulled the pin on it and went and did the course in personal training, enjoyed it, and have been doing it ever since.

“It was more the partying side of things, that lifestyle. It’s for some people and it’s not for some people – and it just wasn’t for me. I enjoyed the time with Jordanstown, played a bit of Freshers football, but I only lasted a year.”

He’s not a teetotaller “but I wouldn’t be a big drinker. The likes of over Christmas would do me. But over the playing season you wouldn’t get much chance anyway, it’s a hectic schedule.”

So is his working life, although he’s not complaining at all. “I’m working out of my own club, Coalisland Fianna gym, I use away at it, it’s handy enough.

“I didn’t complete my degree. I went and did Level 2 Fitness, then got Level 3 under my belt, and I’ll probably do more courses over time, just trying to get better all the time.

“I did an online course, then went to Lisburn too, an intense enough course, plenty of science in it too, it was interesting learning about the body.

“At the start I was running circuit classes and stuff like that but then I got more into the personal training side of things.

“I run one-to-ones there most mornings, from six o’clock right through until 10 or 11. There could more during the day before training [with Tyrone], and then you’re away to training, so it can be a hectic enough day, although you’re not doing too much yourself, but with the early morning starts. I take plenty of footballers as well, it’s something I enjoy doing and have an interest for.

“It’s the line of work I want to be in and it works handy with the football, you have your own hours, you’re not tied down.”

It does mean leaving bed early though. “I like getting up an hour before a start, up around five o’clock, and then take my porridge before I head up [to the club gym]. I’d have programmes done up for my clients and then get set up and sessions planned out.

“You’d try and get your seven or eight hours sleep, although that can be tough. Rest and recovery has been emphasised recently, that’s key to staying injury-free. I’m trying to get more sleep than I was getting, get to bed earlier.

“On the nights that I’m not training I might work from four or five o’clock through to probably nine o’clock at the latest – and then up the next morning at five again. It’s not too hands-on or like doing manual labour, but it can be a long enough day with early starts.

“You’d try to get a power nap throughout the day, I’d try my best to get an hour, if you have a few hours off.”

Intake is as important as exercise and rest, and Hampsey adds: “I would be serious enough about my diet, I have a routine throughout the week. I try to stay away from it [alcohol], the effect it has on the body wouldn’t be ideal.

“I go to a local butcher’s in Stewartstown, Lowe’s, every Monday, for meat, and then head off and get vegetables and fruit in different shops in my hometown. I’d try to keep it clean enough.”

Giving himself the best opportunity to perform, making the most of himself. It’s what Hampsey does and Tyrone need to do, if they are to have any chance of de-throning five-in-a-row chasing Dublin.

Padraig Hampsey with the Allianz Football League Division One trophy.
Picture by Hugh Russell

The Coalisland man skilfully sidesteps the obvious question about what the Red Hands need to do to beat the Dubs, replying:

“We had a few lads in during the McKenna Cup and it was about seeing if we can better ourselves as a team. There were lads who’ve done really well, like Liam Rafferty, Darragh Cavanan, big Brian Kennedy.

“We just want to get better as games go on. Game-time will do those boys more good than anything and I’m looking forward to getting back playing myself.”

Yet despite his fine performances for Tyrone, in defence and around midfield, including man-marking of top players such as Donegal’s Michael Murphy and Conor McManus of Monaghan, Hampsey won’t be relaxing and taking his return to the team for granted.

“Michael Cassidy is a very smart player, I was with him right up from the minors. There’s Hugh Pat McGeary and Ciaran McLaughlin in the back-line as well, so there’s plenty of good competition.”

Padraig Hampsey personifies this modern Tyrone team. Talented, dedicated, determined, and willing to put in plenty of hard work in the hope of earning success.

The partying can wait – for now.

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Verdict

Tyrone’s strengths are evident – physical strength itself from most of their players, including serious stamina; a deep, deep, talented panel, with a good age profile; a well-oiled system of play; and serious trust among the players in their highly experienced manager, Mickey Harte.

They’d like to get to a League Final, win it of course, but the main initial target is to preserve Division One status – and having four home games should help in that regard.

Healy Park doesn’t guarantee Tyrone wins, of course, and the rest of the programme is fairly tough, starting with the longest trip of all this weekend, to Killarney. There are also away games in Roscommon and Dublin, although the Red Hands have fared well at Croke Park in the League in recent years.

Taking at least a point home from Fitzgerald Stadium could be important to their hopes of reaching the League decider but the visitors can fancy their chances against a young Kingdom outfit under the new management of former Minor boss Peter Keane.

The question marks over Tyrone still hang over their scoring power at the highest level – i.e. against Dublin.

The absence of Mark Bradley this season is an undoubted blow. The hopes are that Lee Brennan will continue his development, Darren McCurry will show his quality on his return, and that scores will come from plenty of other areas of the team, and from younger guns such as Darragh Canavan and Ruairi Sludden.

Looking further ahead, Tyrone will, as ever want to win Ulster, not least because that would put them in a different All-Ireland quarter-finals group to the Leinster champions (let’s call them Dublin). They’ll have to do that from the preliminary round, but they have home advantage in that against Derry.

A solid League showing should set the Red Hands up for another tilt at dethroning Dublin.

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Young Ones To Watch

One might ask ‘Where do you start?’; just as accurate would be to wonder ‘Where do you stop?’ The conveyor belt of talent rolls on, with most of those tried out in the McKenna Cup making a good impression.

Darragh Canavan, son of ‘God’/Peter the Great, has understandably captured most of the attention and made many headlines. However, although the Errigal Ciaran teenager is an exciting prospect, Brian Kennedy is a more immediate contender for first team starts. The 6’5” Derrylaughan lad is a mobile ball-winner, obviously able to dominate in the air, but much more than a mere catcher, good on the ball too.

Canavan’s clubmate Ben McDonnell offers an option in the half-back line, as does Liam Rafferty of Galbally, who can also play deeper or further forward, while Omagh’s Ciaran McLaughlin is another who has been tried out in defence.

Such is the Red Hands’ depth, though, that some of those may not even make match-day 26s in the cauldron of Division One, given that the likes of Kyle Coney and Conan Grugan are back involved again, while Ardboe’s tough Michael Cassidy will be pushing for a starting slot among the backs, having been in the squad in recent seasons.

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