Sports

Tyrone braced for tough test Cavan in McKenna Cup Opener

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

TYRONE will open their Dr McKenna Cup campaign with a trip to Kingspan Breffni Park to face a Cavan side managed by former Red Hand star Mattie McGleenan.

The fixtures have been released by the Ulster Council, with the 2017 competition getting under way on Sunday January 8.

The holders will welcome the students of Ulster University to Healy Park a week later, on Sunday January 15, and complete their Group C programme on Wednesday January 18 when they travel to Ballybofey to take on Donegal.

Meanwhile, Niall Sludden is preparing to battle for his place, and expects the competition to be fierce in the season ahead.

Sludden was one of the stars of 2016, earning an All-Star nomination in his debut season, but he is taking nothing for granted.

I got my chance and I suppose I grabbed it, but I ll have to do the same thing again next year, he said.

There will be serious competition for places, and I m looking forward to trying to get my grasp on it as well.

If I dont get my place in the team, I'll continue to work hard, because I know there's a real battle for places, but I am really looking forward to 2017.

You have some of the new boys coming in there are adding wee bit of freshness to it.

And you add in the older blend as well, so I can't wait to get back to training, can't wait to push myself on and hopefully build on last year again.

Sludden regards the O'Fiaich Cup as an important aspect of the pre-season, with fringe players and newcomers getting a chance to impress the management.

Definitely, especially for the new boys coming in there wanting to get a bit of extra time to build up.

And let's be honest, the McKenna Cup is just around the corner as well, the National League is going to be starting soon.

It goes very quick, and if you can go in and get your jersey and stake a claim under Mickey, he's definitely going to play you.

Tyrone are going for a sixth successive Dr McKenna Cup title, but face a tough defence in January, having been drawn in the same group as Donegal, Cavan and UU.

It's a very tough group, but we'll be looking forward to that challenge. There's some tough games there, but we will just take it one game at a time and keep building on it.

There will be a number of people getting a chance there, and we will see if they can stand up, because there will be serious intensity to those games as well.

It's all about integrating them into the team, and becoming used to the style of play that we play as well. So its very important for the new boys, and for everyone else as well.

We treat it the same as any other competition, we want to go out and win it, but we'll focus on our performance.

Tyrone's return to Division One of the National Football League will see them face the country's top teams, another prospect that excites the Dromore clubman.

It's a massive step up. That's the level you want to be playing at. If we want to push on from last year and keep working on it, we have to be testing ourselves against these teams.

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