GAA Football

Tyrone's Niall Sludden rejects defensive label on Red Hands

Tyrone's Niall Sludden insists that the Red Hands are far from being a defensive outfit. Pic Philip Walsh
Francis Mooney

Niall Sludden has taken a swipe back at the critics of Tyrone's so-called defensive approach, insisting they're an attack-minded team.

He says he doesn't understand how anyone can fail to recognise the positivity in the way the Red Hands play their football.

Sludden accepts that disciplined defensive structures are an important part of the strategy, but it's all based on getting the ball forward as swiftly as possible, with numbers streaming from deep in support.

"This notion that Tyrone are a defensive team, it's not true at all," he said. "We can mix it with the best and mix it up."

A dominant display saw them rack up a huge score-line in their 3-20 to 0-13 rout of Cork at O'Moore Park in Portlaoise last weekend as they powered into the first ever All-Ireland Super 8s series.

"We're not just all about getting back in numbers, we can break as well, and hopefully we can continue that, because the calibre of teams that we're going to be coming up against is going to be stepped up."

The Dromore clubman said the players are given freedom to express themselves and licence to display flair and invention.

"We have always been like that, we have never been a team that just defends at all costs.

"That's not what we're about, and I know myself that that would take away from the freedom we have in the game. We're allowed to go out and express ourselves and stay solid defensively as well.

"We saw a couple of guys coming off the bench, Rony (Ronan O'Neill) and Sparky (Mark Bradley), and getting a few goals. It was great to get the three goals as well.

Tyrone's 16 points mauling of Cork sets up a Super 8s clash with Roscommon this weekend, and the Dromore man says it's important that they get a result from the Croke Park opener.

"Roscommon is not going to be easy, ever. When you get to the last eight there's never going to be an easy game.

"We need to be getting off to a good start. Hopefully we can do that, but these games are going to be very tight, and there's not going to be very much in it.

"They're a tough team, they were very unlucky against Galway in the Connacht final. They have got quality players all over the pitch, and it will be a good challenge for us.

"Hopefully we can improve our passing, our efficiency and our wee skills as well, and pick it up a notch.

"It's very hard now to do much training, with a week in between the games. It's probably going to be mentally that we'll have to concentrate on in getting ready.

"When you come up against the top teams you have to be clinical, and we gave away a lot of turnovers, especially in the first half, and you can't do that against the top teams.

"Against the top teams, when you get the ball turned over, it's in the back of the net. I know that from last year. So it's important that we clean up things like that."

Sludden said that even in the immediate aftermath of defeat to Monaghan in the first round of the Ulster Championship, the Tyrone players never lost sight of their mission to reach the Super 8s.

"After getting beaten by Monaghan at the start of the championship, we had to reassess our options.

"Even though it was painful at the time, we still had it in the back of or heads that we wanted to be part of the Super 8s right from the start of the year.

"It's great be there now, and part of it, especially when it's something new."

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