Hampsey out to add club glory with Coalisland to 'surreal season'

Picture: Seamus Loughran

AN elite club of inspirational footballers who have captained All-Ireland and club championship winning teams in the same season could be about to register a new member.

Padraig Hampsey will skipper Coalisland in Sunday's Tyrone SFC final, two months after leading the county to Sam Maguire Cup success.

A rare double will depend on another big performance from a Fianna side that has staged a string of remarkable comebacks to set up a title decider against Dromore.

“It would be massive, but winning the All-Ireland alone was a massive achievement in itself, and to captain a side of great players was brilliant,” said Hampsey.

“If we went on to win the game it would be unbelievable. It was a surreal year anyway with captaining the Tyrone side to an All-Ireland title.

“But to win another county title with my club and to captain the side would be massive and a really proud moment for myself.

“To be back in another county final is a great thing for the club, and one that we're really proud of as Coalisland people.

“But we know that we have a massive opposition in Dromore and we have to deal with them first.”

Hampsey is concerned at Coalisland's failure to assert themselves until the latter stages of games in the current series.

Late goals helped them come from behind in the dying moments of previous rounds, but he fears they will be punished if they leave it late in the final.

“We know that we probably haven't played a good half of football in this championship. It's been down to the last ten minutes in the three games, where we pulled it out of the bag, and maybe through a bit of luck too.

“And if you look at Dromore, they have that heart themselves. They have come through big games too, beating the county champions, beating Ardboe and Eglish too in tough games, and then beating a great Trillick side in the semi-final.

“That instilled great belief in their players through their management and experienced players, the likes of Ronan McNabb, who got a massive block against Trillick to get his side over the line.

“So both sides have travelled the same sort of path. Maybe Dromore have played a better style of football, but we're just glad to be there in the final.”

The Tyrone Championship is perhaps the most unpredictable in the country, and it's 16 years since a defending champion has retained the title.

“I don't know what year it was when the last back to back was done. There's a different winner every year, and that's why it's such an interesting championship and gets so much views throughout the country.

“You need that bit of luck as well, and we have had that bit of luck the last three games.”

Opposing managers Brian McGuckin and Dromore's Colm McCullagh will attempt to implement a game plan, but yet another crazy finish could decide the destiny of the O'Neill Cup.

“I'd love to be sitting four points ahead going into the last five minutes, but look, it's going to be a real tough battle, and we know what Dromore are going to bring,” said Hampsey.

“They have plenty of great players, and plenty of great experienced players, a lot of good youth footballers coming through who have really stepped up to the mark this year. They look like really exciting players, players for the future in the county set-up as well.

“We know what they have and what they're going to bring, but I'm sure it's going to be a great final, a great spectacle.”

The Coalisland skipper has placed his trust in his players to believe in themselves, even at times of crisis, and display the same spirit of resilience that has served them well this season.

“For me, it was a case of now throwing in the towel, and playing to the final whistle was the big thing, and something that we emphasised at the start of the championship.

“No matter how tough the game was getting, or how bad we were playing in stages of the game, we just stuck together as a team and kept grinding it out, and thankfully it worked out.”

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