Niall Sludden: Tyrone now have tools to adapt approach

Niall Sludden has promised that Tyrone won’t be afraid to shake things up, should they find themselves in a crisis at Croke Park on Sunday.

Niall Sludden: Tyrone now have tools to adapt approach

Niall Sludden has promised that Tyrone won’t be afraid to shake things up, should they find themselves in a crisis at Croke Park on Sunday.

If they need to change the point of attack to stretch Kerry, they’ll do so with a shift in style, from a running game to long ball, or vice versa.

The Red Hands have developed an alternative strategy this year, but reverted to their more recognised approach after Donegal nullified the use of a target man in the Ulster Championship semi-final.

However, after being stunned by two Cork goals in a Super 8s tie at Croke Park last month, they played their way out of trouble by pushing key men forward in a route-one barrage.

“I don’t think it’s that difficult. We have been working on it for a number of years, trying to switch up our game,” said Sludden.

“Maybe a lot of people out there were saying we’re a bit too one-dimensional, but I think we’re very good now at mixing up the kicking and the running game.

“Mickey always tells us to be adaptable, that’s a big word we use around the squad.

Whether you’re five points down or five points up, it’s all about game management, and that experience over the last couple of years has stood to us and will stand to us.

A battle-hardened Tyrone go into a third successive All-Ireland semi-final for the first time in the county’s history, galvanised by years of championship combat with the country’s top teams.

Along the way, they have given and taken the hits and developed immense powers of recovery to establish a steely resilience based on vast experience.

“It is important, it’s nice to have that experience behind you. It’s just about making sure that you perform on the day,” said the centre forward.

“We have been on a journey, this team has been building for a number of years, but we want to make sure it counts on Sunday. We’re confident in the team and the panel we have, and hopefully we can do a job on them.”

A somewhat farcical Healy Park tie between two second-string teams which ended in a meaningless win for Dublin last weekend has reinforced calls for the scrapping of the Super 8s, as Group 2 ended with two dead-rubbers.

But Sludden doesn’t want to see any rash decisions made on the future of the All-Ireland quarter-final round-robin series, which has now completed the second of two trial seasons.

“At the start I wouldn’t have been the biggest fan of it. I thought knockout was the best way to go. But I have really enjoyed the last couple of years. The opportunities to get to play in Omagh, in front of a big crowd, has been really good for Tyrone. And days out in Croke Park, Ballybofey last year, have been great.

I think it has stood to us, getting those extra games, and it has benefited us as a squad in building momentum.

The Dromore man was one of just a handful of established Tyrone stars to play any part in last weekend’s low-key meeting with the Dubs.

It was used to give game time to fringe players, to a handful returning from injury, and in Sludden’s case, to a man on his way back to top form.

“I’m hitting form at the right time, and I’m ready to go for Sunday and hopefully the rest of the lads will be ready for it, it’s going to be a big task in Croke Park against Kerry.

“Personally, I feel a lot better. You’re always up against it with competition in the squad, and I thought the boys who came in on Sunday did really well against the Dubs.”

Now he just wants time to roll on to Sunday afternoon, and see the ball being thrown in, so Tyrone can test themselves against Kerry’s exciting young talents.

“The All-Ireland semi-final, that’s where you really want to be. This Kerry team has got a lot of youth, they have got experience as well.

“You saw them over the last couple of weeks, they’re going very well too.

“These are the days that you train for, you spend the time up at Garvaghey on cold winter nights, and it’s great to be back at this stage again, especially after getting knocked out by Donegal. Here we are again.”

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