GAA Football

Tyrone players always behind Mickey Harte, insists Niall Sludden

ALTHOUGH certain Arsenal fans got their way in securing managerial change, Niall Sludden says he and the rest of the Tyrone squad are happy Mickey Harte wasn't ousted in similar fashion.

Harte came under pressure in 2015, despite pushing Kerry hard in that year's All-Ireland semi-finals, but stayed on to guide the Red Hands to two Ulster Finals – and to this year's national decider.

Sludden, a Gunner himself, insisted: "The players are all behind Mickey. It is like everything else, sport is very fickle and being an Arsenal fan I know that best.

"Mickey is brilliant and when I was coming into the squad it was great to have a man of that experience there.

"You have to remember that he has been there and done that and the fact that we are in an All-Ireland final and [some] have been there before, for our younger players that is a massive thing to have, to be imparting that knowledge.

"The whole lot of the players are fully behind Mickey. Of course, opinion, like everything else, is always divided but the players were always fully behind Mickey and that is the most important thing."

Niall Sludden has taken his time to become a key player for Tyrone

Having got this far, Tyrone still face the daunting task of defeating Dublin, and Sludden knows how hard the three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions are to score against:

"Some people maybe don't analyse that as much but when you are playing against them they set up with a lot of men behind the ball.

"Over the last couple of years people have seen that but they seem to get a lot more credit than a lot of other teams, particularly ourselves, about going forward - but we feel we can do it going both ways as well.

"They are very hard to break down and if you are a player playing in the half-forward line and you're not moving that ball quick they are really good at getting a few men around you and turning over the ball. The important thing for us is that when they do set up defensively that we have to be patient in setting up the scores."

Tyrone were blown away by the Dubs in last year's semi-final, Jim Gavin's side cruising to an eventual 12-point victory, although Sludden, along with Colm Cavanagh, was one of the few Tyrone players who performed adequately that day.

His displays this year, including scoring 3-13 from play, have brought more attention to the Dromore man from the opposition, including Dublin sticking Eoin Murchan on him in Omagh last month:

"That's what happens when you are playing on the team and I suppose I have been contributing a bit more on the scoreboard this year as well. You've got to expect that. Teams look at certain players they want to stop and they did a very good job that day.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing as well and we have another opportunity now to come back. That's just part of the game now and every team will go out to stop the key threats.

"When you do that you go a long way to taking out any team. That's just part and parcel of the game.

"I look at that as a good thing as well because they are concentrating on me as a threat so they are worried about me. We've got plenty of other players that can step up too."

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