GAA Football

Monaghan forwards worry Tyrone skipper Hampsey more than making Anglo-Celt accepting speech

Padraig Hampsey tangles with Monaghan's Conor McManus in the 2018 All-Ireland semi-final. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

PADRAIG Hampsey will join a list of Tyrone legends if he accepts the Anglo-Celt Cup on behalf of his county on Saturday. But he insists he hasn't given any thought to writing a speech just yet.

The Coalisland defender isn't worried about what he'll say on behalf of the Red Hands if they beat Monaghan at Croke Park – it's the Farney forwards that concern him most.

And little wonder because, whether it's the first minute or at the death, Conor McManus is capable of popping up with the scores that could swing tomorrow's Ulster final Monaghan's way.

Clontibret star McManus has hit 1-10 in two games so far. He played within himself in Monaghan's quarter-final win over Fermanagh and reported fit for the semi-final against Armagh despite leaving Clones on crutches. A superbly-taken goal in the opening minutes against the Orchardmen set the tone for a terrific first half but McManus showed his true worth in the second when, with the Farneymen looking down and almost out after falling behind, he converted two difficult injury-time frees with nerveless style to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat.

As Tyrone's go-to man-marker Hampsey could be the man to track ‘Mansy' tomorrow and he expects the best yet from the Clontibret maestro.

“Conor McManus could be quiet for 60 or 65 minutes of the game and he could maybe pop up and hit one or two massive scores to get his team across the line,” said Hampsey.

“He's just that type of player. If you take your eye off him at all he can really hurt you, and over the last 10 years or so that's been seen in his game.

“He's probably in the top three forwards in the country and that's the reason why. You can't ever take your eye off the man, and he'll shoot from anywhere and he's very accurate.

“It probably is down to his mental toughness, it's in the clutch moments where has stepped up for Monaghan over the last couple of years and I'm sure if the opportunity comes on Saturday he'll be the man to do it again, so he'll take a fair bit of watching.”

Of course, McManus is not the only Monaghan threat. Jack McCarron has found a rich vein of form this year and Conor McCarthy, Micheal Bannigan and Darren Hughes also need “a fair bit of watching”.

“It's very hard to defend against when you have two or three runners coming at you and if they take a goal it could be game-over,” says Hampsey.

“You just have to take it and try your best at the back and hope that the boys beside you are on the same level and they are trying their best. It's tough but you just sort of have to go with it and see how it goes.”

The flags are up in Hampsey's home town Coalisland and across the county as Tyrone prepare for their first Ulster final since the 2017 victory over Down. Leading the team at Croke Park will be an honour for Hampsey who was appointed skipper by new management duo Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher.

“There's plenty of players who could have got that role, there's plenty of leaders but it was a nice thing to receive and a very proud moment,” he said.

“It's massive, it shows over the last number of years if you are keeping your head down and working hard and trying to get your place in the team and you break in and try and keep your place, but it's just a huge honour to be asked to captain the team.

“It's such a great bunch of lads and hard-working lads and over the last couple of years we have been knocking on the door for Ulster finals and Ulster Championship games and in 2018 we were in an All-Ireland final.

“It's just a great opportunity for myself to get that, and one I'm very thankful for.”

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