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Tyrone can be real knock-out: Sludden

 

By John Campbell

The inspirational form of centre-half-forward Niall Sludden has had much to do with Tyrone's concerted drive towards the All-Ireland Football Championship semi-finals.

But it's Sludden himself who reveals what he believes is the real reason for the team's swashbuckling form that has helped them amass an astonishing 7-44 in their last two games alone, thus projecting themselves into the short odds bracket for what would be a fourth All-Ireland title under Mickey Harte's baton.

"We are treating every game in the Super8s as a knock-out tie even though the competition is being played on a league basis," states Sludden. "When we went in against Roscommon, we were looking for a win, pure and simple. I think that this is a good mentality for us to have."

Just six weeks after gaining one of their most fortuitous wins for some time when Cathal McShane swept over an equalising point in the sixth minute of injury-time to force the extra-time that brought a one-point qualifier win over Meath, 2-14 to 0-19, the Red Hands will welcome All-Ireland champions Dublin to Healy Park, Omagh on Saturday (7.00pm) hoping to claim what would be by far their most prestigious scalp of all.

Since that scare against Meath, Tyrone have beaten Carlow, Cavan, Cork and Roscommon and in the process racked up the kind of scores that make a total mockery of any theory that Harte's men are still wedded to a defensive system.

But although their current cavalier attacking style has left recent opponents floundering, schoolteacher Sludden confirms that the side will have their guard up for the Dubs.

"We saw how dangerous Roscommon were in the Connacht final against Galway so we knew what to expect," says Sludden.

"Obviously we know the challenge that Dublin will pose. But we have virtually a full squad available.

"We appear to have a wide range of options within the side right now. We are getting a lot of scores from defence and from throughout the forward line but we know that we have to keep going. This game against Dublin is going to be an acid test for us."

It's not often that Dublin are forced to forsake the home comforts which Croke Park can afford them, but the Tyrone faithful are relishing the chance of getting behind their side at what will be a packed Healy Park.

"It's going to be a massive occasion and another step up for us," stresses Sludden. "But we are really looking forward to this test. This is the kind of game for which you really play football."

With Lee Brennan having recovered from injury and expected to get game time, Tyrone boss Harte will make one change to his starting line-up given that experienced defender Cathal McCarron has not recovered from the knee injury he suffered against Roscommon.

Hugh Pat McGeary, who went in as a substitute, is expected to retain his place as Harte now seeks an even better performance from his side.

"Obviously it's great for us to be hosting the All-Ireland champions in a Championship match in Omagh in July," reflects Harte.

"This is something that we did not deem possible but now we're happy to embrace the challenge.

"We could have been out of it altogether in Navan when we played Meath. We used up quite a bit of our luck on that occasion and then we learned to build on that. We've taken advantage of that little bit of a break we got in Navan.

"There is a very fine line between a degree of success and huge failure. We've had a degree of success and we'd like to keep it going a bit longer."

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