By Alan Rodgers
A VERY rare accolade beckons Padraig Hampsey to climax a year that he’ll likely never forget.
Lifting the Anglo Celt, Sam Maguire and Paddy O’Neill Cups in the one season is something that has never been done in Tyrone before. Winning provincial, All-Ireland and senior club titles is not even a common occurrence across the country. But the 26 year-old whose example on and off the field has been an inspiration in 2021 now stands on the brink of history.
Of course, personal records are something for old age or the statisticians. In the prime of his career, Padraig Hampsey’s focus is quite correctly on the vastly more important quest of leading Coalisland to glory at Healy Park.
“For me, the club always comes first. Anytime I put on the Fianna jersey I try to go out and do the club proud and do the people of Coalisland proud because this is a proud town with a very proud people,” said their captain.
“It’s really nice and special to be back in another county final. They don’t come around too often and they are very hard to win here in Tyrone. That’s clear from how hard it has been for any club to retain the title. It’s a really special championship, there’s something different about it, it’s really tough to win.
“We know that come next Sunday it will be a great spectacle. It has been a great year for me lifting the Anglo Celt and the Sam Maguire, and now being back in the County Final with Coalisland as captain. But it has also been a special year for a lot of the Tyrone lads, and even my own clubmates who are back here and those who are looking forward to their first.
“It’s nice being a captain and to be part of the team and a great bunch of lads. Coming back to the club after the All-Ireland was something that I’ve really loved because this is a team that is really tight-knit. We’re friends as well as teammates.
“The players will go out for drinks, or lunch or coffee together. They are my best friends really, the lads I grew up with. It’s maybe more easy-going than Tyrone, but then it’s very tough too when you’re being pushed on from the sideline.”
Playing at centre-half back, he has been a key figure for Coalisland. When the chips were down, as they have been so often in the Fianna’s fabulous run, the number six has been one of the players to haul them back into contention. Behind it all, though, he’s well aware of what lies ahead in the County Final against a Dromore team which has enjoyed its own amazing journey in 2021.
“Thankfully we’ve had that kind of never-say-die attitude. Cormac O’Hagan was there for us the last day to strike the winning free against the breeze.
“It took a lot of belief in himself to do that, and we’re just so glad to have a player like him who’s capable of doing that,” said the team captain.
“It has been a great three games to come through. At times we did look like going out. But there is that belief which has been instilled in us by the management to go right to the final whistle and keeping at it. Maybe that bit of luck has help us. But all that doesn’t matter because Dromore have beaten the county champions, a really good Ardboe team and a Trillick side who were the favourites. It’s going to be a great spectacle.”