Ulster SFC Final: Tyrone's Niall Sludden aims to repay Mickey Harte's faith

Killian Brady challenges Niall Sludden during the first half of the replay at Clones
Niall Sludden's poise has been a feature of Tyrone's displays so far this summer
Ulster SFC final: Donegal v Tyrone
Venue: St Tiernach's Park, Clones Date: Sunday 17 July Throw-in: 14:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC2 NI from 13:45 and live coverage on Radio Ulster MW 1341 and text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Niall Sludden is determined to repay the faith Mickey Harte has placed in him by helping Tyrone win an Ulster SFC title in his debut inter-county season.

Sludden's poise in the Red Hand line-up has been one of the features of the football season to date.

Harte has picked the 24-year-old in the crucial centre half-back role and the Dromore man has delivered in spades.

"Mickey has put me in there at number six and it has transformed my game," adds teacher Sludden.

"Because of his organisation, he always has you really well prepared going into any game so that you are prepared for any eventuality.

"That's very important for a young player like myself."

Sludden versatility boosting Tyrone

Sludden has featured both in attack and defence for his club and during his Red Hand county under-age days.

Asked whether he sees himself as a defender or a forward, the articulate Dromore man replies that "it's a very good question".

"I don't know myself. I can play both. In the modern game, you have to adapt and rotate a lot.

"And the position of centre half-back has evolved so much. Before it might have been all about dropping back, sweeping and mark-marking but now it's more about breaking forward and transition as well."

Sludden mentions the 'T-word' which has become such as essential part of GAA parlance over the past couple of seasons as teams look to break at pace after turnovers.

"It has developed and you have to change your game around that."

Donegal's Martin McElhinney battles with Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh in last year's championship meeting
Martin McElhinney's goal helped Donegal beat Tyrone in the first round of the Ulster Championship last year

Tyrone out to end losing run against Donegal

In terms of Sunday's opponents, while Sludden admits there is a "rivalry and respect" between the two sets of players, he baulks at suggestions of any major animosity.

"When it comes to the game, it's going to get a bit heated like any game but I wouldn't use the word 'hatred'."

However, Tyrone will surely feel they are long overdue a championship victory over Donegal after losing their last four meetings in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Indeed, one has to go back to the 2007 Ulster semi-final to find Tyrone's last championship victory over Sunday's opponents.

For his part, Sludden does let slip that Harte's squad are "very confident that we'll do the business".

"But we know it's going to have to be a full 70-75-minute performance and we haven't really being doing that. Donegal are a very strong side."

Steered off message for another brief moment, Sludden adds that Tyrone "most definitely" believe they are good enough to go all the way in the championship this year before he quickly adds that the "focus is always on the next game".

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