Padraig Hampsey is trying to establish himself in a Tyrone team that’s attempting to prove itself as a serious All-Ireland contender.
And on both fronts, it was job done on Sunday.
While all the talk had been about the youthful promise of Donegal’s current Ulster U21 winners heading into the provincial semi-final, it was Tyrone’s 2015 All-Ireland U21 champions who left Clones with reputations enhanced.
Hampsey, 23, represents the new wave and it speaks volumes about his confidence that he says he was “relishing” the prospect of marking Michael Murphy.
It was a huge vote of confidence from manager Mickey Harte to be given the job of picking up the Donegal captain every time he took up an attacking position at Clones.
The brilliant Colm Cavanagh out-fielded and out-played Murphy in a deeper role, but it was Hampsey who curbed his scoring threat as Tyrone pulled off a stunning nine-point victory.
“We talked through it. I enjoy that buzz of picking up a big player,” admitted the Coalisland defender. “I was relishing it. I knew it would be a task and I was just trying to stay with him. He didn’t stop to the final whistle.”
Hampsey out-scored Murphy from play, kicking 0-2 to Murphy’s sole first-half point. Hampsey was part of a brilliant defensive set-up that also contributed 1-5 from play out of Tyrone’s 1-19 from play.
“The two points... I don’t usually do that! But we know our role and we know how to attack and how to defend. We have a lot of versatile players.
“Pundits have been writing us off as a very defensive team but we put up a good scoreline against a quality team so hopefully that puts that to bed now. We got a few bad results in the league but we play as a team and it did come together and now we need to bring it through to Ulster final.”
Hampsey had to bide his time last year as team-mates from the All-Ireland U21-winning team such as Mark Bradley, Kieran McGeary, Rory Brennan, Cathal McShane, and Conor Meyler all stepped up to the senior ranks.
He only got 99 minutes of league and championship football in 2016, but he is highly rated in Tyrone and was a regular all spring.
He got his first championship start against Derry last month before starring in Sunday’s 1-21 to 1-12 triumph.
“It was definitely a step up for us but I think this is a big statement from us.
“Our first objective was to get over Donegal. We weren’t thinking about Ulster titles but we’ll start thinking about it now. We have a job still to do but we feel we are getting better and better all the time.”
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