Tuesday 20 August 2019

Mullen aiming to continue dream year by setting up third All-Ireland tilt

Kilkenny's Adrian Mullen. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Kilkenny's Adrian Mullen. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

Given his family connections, this was always likely to form part of Adrian Mullen's future. All the same, the rate of change in 2019 has been hard to get his head around.

In March, he helped Ballyhale Shamrocks to the All-Ireland club title, scoring a pivotal five points in the final. Soon after he linked in with the Kilkenny seniors, scoring four points in their semi-final upset over Limerick last weekend. All at just 19.

But before he contemplates a return to Croke Park, there's the more pressing matter of O'Moore Park this Saturday when Kilkenny clash with Cork in the All-Ireland U-20 HC semi-final.

"We enjoyed Saturday night, but it was all systems go then for Cork," he says. "It's good to be facing into an All-Ireland [final], but obviously all the focus is on this weekend."

At the age of nine Mullen watched his cousin, Michael Fennelly, captain Kilkenny to All-Ireland victory, while his father, Declan Mullen, played minor for Kilkenny in the 1980s.

Growing up as a Ballyhale player, Henry Shefflin was always revered, and being managed by him at club level hasn't lessened the aura.

It's a similar story with DJ Carey, though it's a measure of Mullen's youth when he's asked if he remembers the Kilkenny U-20 manager's playing days. "I don't," he laughs. "But I heard he was pretty good."

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The call from Brian Cody came when Mullen was preparing for the club decider earlier this year, and once that was out of the way he got his first taste of the big time with the Cats. The main difference?

"Intensity," he says. "You have to be 100 per cent right for every game, have the head 100 per cent right. Things you might get away with at club [level] you will not get away with at county so you can't be a yard off. But you adapt to that and get used to that," he says. "I had that problem coming up to club senior from underage. You use every training session to get better."

When it comes to mentors, Mullen has an array of all-time great expertise at his disposal and he often seeks the counsel of clubmates TJ Reid and the Fennellys. "They'll give you a helping hand but if they need to take you down a peg or two they'll do that too."

With the first year of his business degree in DCU now behind him, he's back home for the summer juggling demands unlike many of his classmates, preparing for a tilt at what could be his second and third All-Ireland titles of the year. Of course, that hinges on getting past Cork in what looks a 50-50 game.

"It has been a good year but there's still two games left, hopefully three," he says. "It's not over yet."

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