GAA Football

Double delight for Tyrone and Dromore star Niall Sludden

Dromore's Tiarnan and Niall Sludden with the O'Neill Cup after winning the Tyrone SFC.
Picture Seamus Loughran 
Francis Mooney

NIALL Sludden's perfect season feels more line a dream than reality – an All-Ireland medal and a club Championship triumph all wrapped up in one priceless package.

He's the only Tyrone star to have played on title winning teams with club and county this year, a distinction achieved in Dromore's county final victory over Coalisland last Sunday.

"It's unbelievable. It hasn't hit home yet, but it's just amazing," he said.

"Winning the All-Ireland with Tyrone was fantastic, but to win this with your mates and to see the development of them is special.

"And for Collie (McCullagh, manager) and the backroom team, it's the icing on the cake, it's just been a great year."

A 0-15 to 0-8 victory in the Healy Park decider secured a third Tyrone SFC medal for Sludden.

As a 17-year-old squad member, he got an early taste of success in 2009, and became a teenage winner for the second time two years later, this time playing a major role.

A frustrating decade followed for the Gardrum Park outfit, a string of narrow defeats frustrating their challenge year after year.

"For the first one I was part of the panel, the second one I was more a part of the team, but I was really young back then."

Now, as an elder statesman of the team, schoolteacher Sludden finds reward in watching talented young players develop and begin to fulfil their potential.

"It's great to just to see the development of these younger players coming through, they have got a lot of tough times over the last couple of years.

"We have been questioned, but they have really stood up. It's just a joy.

"Being that older figure in the team, it's nice to see those boys get their rewards."

A core of players from the Dromore team that won the Ulster Club U21 title in 2019 have graduated to the senor team and played key roles in Sunday's O'Neill Cup win.

"All those lads have played on big occasions, big stages. They won the Ulster U21 Championship, so they're well used to that.

"All those lads have played on big occasions, big stages. They won the Ulster U21 Championship, so they're well used to that.

"There's loads of boys on the bench from that as well, so we're very lucky to have such a strong panel."

The searing pace of a young Dromore side was key to a dominant second half performance that saw them out-score Coalisland by ten points to three.

"A big thing that we have is pace, and the players that we have in the final third, when we work together we're very hard to stop.

"If you've got pace, there's only two things an opponent can do, either step off or foul, and that's what they were going to do."

Even when they opened out a seven points lead in the closing stages, Dromore remained wary of a Fianna side that had staged some remarkable comebacks on their way to the decider.

"In Tyrone Championship, it's never over until the final whistle goes, especially with Coalisland.

"So we just had to focus, we kept them out, they had a goal chance at the end.

"But I think our second half performance was one of our best all year. First half wasn't great, I felt that we just didn't get going at all.

"They lost Cormac O'Hagan, a big miss for them, he's a big score-getter. But our boys stepped up and got over the line."

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GAA Football