Adrian Mullen delivers for Shamrocks
By Michael Devlin
As Adrian Mullen collected his trophy for Hurler of the Year at the AIB GAA Club Player Awards at the weekend, he acknowledged that the accolade was only made possible by the influence of the illustrious talent surrounding him.
Mullen played a starring role in the Ballyhale Shamrocks’ forward line as the club clinched their seventh ever All-Ireland Hurling title last month. He scored 2-11 across the campaign, including 2-1 in the Leinster Final win over Ballyboden, and 0-5 in the St Patrick’s Day finale against St Thomas’.
He puts it down to coming up against the likes of Michael and Colin Fennelly and TJ Reid on the training pitch week in week out, while the wisdom Kilkenny legend Henry Shefflin on the sideline has also been instrumental to Mullen’s development into one of hurling’s brightest young stars.
“When you go down to training and marking the likes of Joey Holden and Richie Reid, you can’t not develop as a player, and I suppose that’s why I’m standing here,” said Mullen as he accepted his award at the awards ceremony in Croke Park on Saturday night.
“Training away and learning things from TJ beside me and Colin inside, they’re great encouragement, and that’s probably what I’ve learned the most. With Henry over us as well, he was a forward like myself, and he’d give you as much advice as you’d want. He’s very guiding.”
As a youngster making his way into the senior setup, was Mullen daunted at prospect of playing alongside the hurling superstars he grew up idolising? “Maybe the first time when you step into the dressing room it is a bit weird, but you know, when you grow up and your pucking off the wall, you’re thinking you’re like TJ or Michael or Colin or someone. Pucking around on the pitch with them then, you just kind of adapt to it quickly. You get used to it.
“I wouldn’t be here without the team. There’s many a good hurler who hasn’t had the opportunity to be here, but thankfully with the lads around me, they’ve gave me this opportunity to be here. I’m very thankful to be a Ballyhale Shamrocks man.”
Mullen has been one of the brightest hurling prospects in the country in the last few years. His haul of 3-38 led Kilkenny to a Leinster minor title in 2017, including 1-9 in the final against Dublin in Croke Park.
He was equally as impressive for the all-conquering St Kieran’s College side of recent years, playing a key role in their Croke Cup three-in-a-row in 2016, and narrowly missing out on a fourth successive title a later. Those performances generated plenty of hype surrounding the teenager as he came through the ranks, something Mullen says provided him with a learning curve.
“I suppose I did, when I was minor, feel that bit of pressure. You kind of learn how to deal with that and the different ways to deal with it.
“Kieran’s were the best years of my life. You walk into through the gate with a hurl in your hand, and from that point on you just want to win everything you can. When I was in the school, we won a fair bit.”
For Ballyhale last season though, Mullen delivered on his huge potential time and again, but he admitted that the journey to the Tommy Moore Cup was an arduous one, especially negotiating the pitfalls of the Kilkenny championship.
“First of all winning the county final was a big boost. We struggled in the last couple of years to really dominate in Kilkenny. [In 2017] we were six points up against the Village at half-time, and they put on a 16-point turnaround, so to get out of Kilkenny was very hard.
“People were writing us off against Ballyboden, we really didn’t like that. I suppose to win the All-Ireland was a dream come true.”