Niall Sludden finding his form in Tyrone's All-Ireland bid
It’s all coming together for Niall Sludden as Tyrone pick up the pace for the business end of the Championship.
Despite a dip in form, the Red Hand playmaker has remained an automatic selection throughout the current series a – measure of his immense value to the cause.
And he has rewarded the faith shown in him by manager Mickey Harte with a timely return to form.
In recent weeks, the Dromore man’s effectiveness has been rising steadily, and he was back to his brilliant best in last weekend’s Super 8s win over Roscommon.
Sludden linked play cleverly at Hyde Park, scored three points and provided assists for several others as Tyrone made a winning start to the All-Ireland quarter-final round robin series.
“From a personal point of view it was a lot better, and it’s good that way, but like everything else you are always under pressure to perform,” he said.
“You can see the quality on our bench, so if you are not performing you are not going to be on the team, so it’s a whole squad effort.”
Last year’s landslide win means nothing to a Tyrone team tat is preparing to face a much tougher opponent than the Cork side that capitulated in a Qualifier tie at Portlaoise.
The Rebels possess a more steely edge and pose a greater offensive threat, as they showed against Kerry, Laois and Dublin.
“They look a different animal this year. We always knew that Cork have the players and I suppose for them it was all about getting it together,” said Sludden.
“You can see over the last few weeks the way that they have been playing, so we are well aware of the massive challenge that lies ahead of us.
“Cork have a very dangerous inside line and that is up to our boys out the field to put pressure on the delivery going into them.
But Tyrone are masters when it comes to dealing with the pressure and demands of taking on different challenges in quick succession as they shift from Qualifier series to Super 8s.
“The way that we are approaching these games is that they are knock-out games, so that is one down against Roscommon and now let’s move onto the next one.
“All we are concentrating on now is Cork in Croke Park. If we get the right result there, then we will be in a good place and we can look forward to the Dubs coming to Omagh again.
“It’s another big game in Croke Park and we all look forward to going there, fans and players alike. We are looking forward to getting back to Croker.
“That is were you want to be, the wide-open spaces. It’s going to be another challenge and we are looking forward to it but it’s all about recovery before that.”
The Red Hands had just four points to spare in their round robin opener against Roscommon last weekend, but in Sludden’s eyes, it was a highly satisfying afternoon’s work.
Performance levels and game management combined to frustrate the Rossies in a Hyde Park contest that the home side never looked like winning.
“It was a good result there as it’s not easy coming away from home in the first game of the super 8s. We knew that Roscommon were going to be up for it and you saw the crowd there, it was a hostile place.
“In the first half it was especially tough with only two points in it at the break, but I felt that we controlled the game a lot better in the second half and it’s great to get the first win on the board.
“In the League game earlier in the season we were probably very lucky to get a draw but that point probably set us up for a big finish to the League, so who knows, it could be a big finish to the Championship as well, that’s what we want, but for now it’s all about Cork.”