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Tyrone ready to step up a gear for Dublin showdown, insists Mark Bradley

By John Campbell

Tonight, Tyrone will start what key forward Mark Bradley labels as one of their “craziest” periods of the entire season.

When manager Mickey Harte outlines his blueprint for the build-up to the forthcoming mouth-watering All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin at training, Bradley predicts that the intensity of in-house matches will be brought to a new level as players jostle to make the starting line-up against Jim Gavin’s treble-chasing side.

Up until now, there has been a recognition that Tyrone’s squad matches behind closed doors have borne all the hallmarks of fully-fledged Championship encounters — very much in the nature of Kilkenny’s famed in-house affairs on the hurling front — but given the successful manner in which Harte has deployed his substitutes over recent games, practically every member of his 30-plus squad believe they have a chance of coming under starter’s orders.

And Bradley, outstanding in the comfortable quarter-final win over Armagh at the weekend, insists players are priming themselves for a concerted physical effort.

“Up until now, it really has been crazy and the intensity is going up and up,” revealed Bradley. “Every training session, every in-house match is crazy. Look at David Mulgrew — it was tough on him getting dropped coming into Croke Park against Armagh, but he kicked on and scored 2-1 after coming on as a substitute and put himself in with a shout for man of the match.”

And Bradley also highlighted the contribution of Darren McCurry, who scored a superb point late in the game, while Ronan O’Neill, who helped himself to a brace of goals against Down in the Ulster final after being sent in from the bench, also looked sharp when introduced against the Orchard County.

“This shows you the bench we have. Richie Donnelly, Rory Brennan and Justin McMahon were other subs used against Armagh and you can be sure that these and the rest of the boys will be targeting starting places against the Dubs,” said Bradley.

While Tyrone racked up an impressive 3-17 against Armagh and the forwards were lauded for their finishing skills, Bradley maintains that a key factor in the Red Hands’ strategy is the quality of possession which is delivered to the inside line.

“I earned my bread and butter growing up in the inside line and now that I am getting a wee bit older, I don’t feel I have the legs for around the middle but like the other lads beside me I have come to fully appreciate the quality of ball that comes into us in every game,” pointed out Bradley.

“The likes of Peter Harte, Matthew Donnelly and Niall Sludden hitting the ball into you makes an awful lot of difference.”

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