GAA Football

Padraig Hampsey: Young guns boost Tyrone chances

Tyrone's Padraig Hampsey at Croke Park on Saturday July 14 2018. Picture by Seamus Loughran.
Francis Mooney

Padraig Hampsey has reluctantly accepted veteran status at the age of just 27, but says he's excited by the young blood coursing through a new-look Tyrone squad.

New managers Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher have turned to youth in their desire to add flair and adventure to the package, with the promotion of a number of under-age talents to the senior ranks.

Tyrone begin their 2021 Allianz Football League campaign with a Division One North round one clash against Donegal at Healy Park in Omagh (5pm) next Saturday, May 15.

“We have a youthful squad, so it's great to see that there's young players in Tyrone that are stepping up to the mark and taking that opportunity,” said Hampsey.

“I'm probably one of the older lads in the group now and I'm only 27.

“Even last year in the club championship, there was a lot of players who played really well and took their chance, and they've been brought into the panel this year, the likes of Dungannon's Paul Donaghy.

“It's great to have that youth there, we don't have many players over the age of 30 now, which is a good thing and a great boost for us.”

An Allstar in 2018 following his starring role in Tyrone's run to the All-Ireland final, Hampsey has endured a frustrating time over the past couple of years.

But he's hoping an injury-free run-in to the 2021 season can help him regain top form and restore the massive influence the athletic defender has had on the team.

“Over the last few years for myself, carrying different injuries, it has been a bit of a disappointment, but hopefully this year I can get a clean run at it and get to perform at my best.”

The core of the current Tyrone team has been crafted from the All-Ireland winning U21 side of 2015.

Hampsey was a lynchpin of that team, managed by Feargal Logan, with Brian Dooher as an assistant, and their step up to the senior job has re-united them with a host of players whose careers they helped to mould.

“We got on great with them, winning Ulster and the All-Ireland. They know what to expect of us as players.

“They know us inside-out as players, they know the standards that we have and that we can bring. So they're there testing us every night.

“They're great men and they're there to drive is on every night at training.

“But we can take nothing for granted and we're out every night trying to perform, get your name in there.”

The Coalisland clubman feels Tyrone have been unfairly criticised as an overly defensive team, and received scant recognition of their offensive qualities: “Tyrone have had that on their backs over the past number of years, talked about as being a defensive team, unfairly.

“We as players don't believe that to be the case.

“If you look at other successful teams, even the likes of Dublin, they can be as defensive as everybody.”

But with the arrival of former Aussie Rules star Conor McKenna and the return of Connor McAliskey and Lee Brennan to the squad, they have a depth of attacking talent that creates exciting possibilities for the season ahead: “We have great forwards there, and it's up to the team to show that in this campaign.”

The Red Hand squad, currently top-heavy in terms of numbers exceeding 40, will have to be trimmed back in the weeks ahead, but in the meantime, Hampsey is grateful for the extra back-up.

A pre-season of just four weeks duration has heightened the risk of injury, and opportunities are likely to present themselves to those on standby.

“Injuries have been a big thing over the last couple of weeks, so you need those numbers, that if players do pick up injuries, you have men to come in to replace them.

“It's a great buzz for the players who are getting that chance to be a part of the Tyrone team this year and a great opportunity for them.”

2021 ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE

FOOTBALL

Saturday, May 15

Allianz Football League round one

Division One North

Tyrone v Donegal (Healy Park, Omagh, 5pm)

Division One South

Kerry v Galway (Austin Stack Park, Tralee, 3pm)

Division Two North

Mayo v Down

(Elverys MacHale Park, Castlebar, 2pm)

Division Two South

Cork v Kildare (Semple Stadium, Thurles, 3.30pm)

Division Three North

Longford v Derry

(Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, Longford, 5pm)

Fermanagh v Cavan

(Brewster Park, Enniskillen 7pm)

Division Three South

Limerick v Tipperary

(LIT Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 5pm)

Division Four North

Louth v Antrim

(Geraldines Club, Haggardstown, Dundalk, 3pm)

Division Four South

Waterford v Carlow (Fraher Field, Dungarvan, 7pm)

Sunday, May 16

Allianz Football League round one

Division One North

Monaghan v Armagh

(Brewster Park, Enniskillen, 3pm)

Division One South

Roscommon v Dublin

(Dr Hyde Park, Roscommon, 1.45pm)

Division Two North

Meath v Westmeath

(Páirc Tailteann, Navan, 3.45pm)

Division Two South

Clare v Laois (Cusack Park, Ennis, 3.45pm)

Division Three South

Wicklow v Offaly County Grounds, Aughrim (2pm)

Division Four North

Sligo v Leitrim (Markievicz Park, Sligo, 3pm)

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