Mullane rolls back the years but insists Deise return not on cards
2012 All Stars 10-4 2013 All Stars 6-13
John Mullane helped himself to two goals before signing off in the Far-East sunshine in what was his final outing among many of hurling's top names.
He didn't play for Waterford this year but his All Star award after an excellent 2012 season entitled him to take his place for Saturday's exhibition game in the Shanghai rugby club grounds, an occasion he thoroughly enjoyed.
"This is my sixth All Star tour and it's great to be out here with some of the cream of the crop," he said.
He reproduced his trademark opportunism to score two of the 2012 team's 10 goals on a day when the real star of the show was Mickey Barry. Formerly of Eire Og (Ennis) and Castleknock (Dublin), he travelled from Hong Kong for the game and marked the occasion by scoring three goals, earning him the man-of-the-match award.
It was a memorable occasion for him on a day when Galway's David Burke also had an unusual experience as he shed his forward's jersey to take over in goal for the injured Anthony Nash. Burke did well too, making quite a few good saves on a day when attackers were very much on top.
Mullane, Barry and Burke were prominent figures for the 2012 team, which was managed by Brian Cody, while Croke Park's Pat Daly took charge of this year's team in the absence of Davy Fitzgerald, who was unable to travel due to work reasons.
Despite enjoying his return on Saturday, Mullane has no intention of attempting to make a comeback for Waterford. "I am happy with my decision (to quit). The level of commitment required nowadays is colossal. Looking back, I'm just happy to have got as much out of it as I did," he said.
Unfortunately for him, that did not include an All-Ireland win, a disappointment that he believes present-day Waterford hurlers will not experience.
"The way Clare came through this year gives everyone hope for the future. I think that's the way it's going to go within the next five years – you will see more teams pushing on to win the All-Ireland. Hopefully, that will include the likes of Waterford and Limerick. There's no reason why it shouldn't," he said.
He was sorry to miss out on the hectic action this year but, having made his decision, there was no going back.
"I don't think I've ever seen a summer like it in all my time watching and playing hurling. It started with the National League and went on from there. It got better and better all the way to the All-Ireland final and the replay," he said.
He now believes that Waterford are making sufficient progress to put themselves in the title mix over the next few seasons but urges caution too.
"I suppose there is going to be an awful lot of hype there next year on the back of our minor success. I'd like to see Waterford now target an U-21 title. That's the approach Clare took and look at how it worked for them. If Waterford could do the same at U-21 level, it would leave them well-placed to push on as seniors," said Mullane.
He enjoyed some great days with Waterford but there were disappointing times too, notably in 2004 – when he missed the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kilkenny due to suspension – '07 and '08.
Waterford were hot favourites to beat Limerick in the '07 All-Ireland semi-final but came unstuck in what had, up to then, been an excellent year for them.
"We didn't do ourselves justice at all that day. Just couldn't get going the way we knew we were capable of," said Mullane.
He got his only All-Ireland final outing a year later but Waterford were no match for a rampant Kilkenny team.
Mullane battled on for another four seasons before opting out. And while he looked sharp enough on Saturday to suggest that he still has plenty to offer Waterford, he feels no urge to return.
"I had my time and it's now up. There's plenty of talent in Waterford so I would be very optimistic about the future."
The 2013 All Stars led by two points at half-time but early second-half goals by Barry, Eoin Larkin and Mullane gave the 2012 team an advantage which they held to the finish. The 2013 side pressed on and cut the margin to a single score near the end but couldn't quite complete the recovery.
The game was watched by an attendance of around 400, which included Irish ambassador Paul Kavanagh and consul general Austin Gormley.
Scorers – 2012: M Barry 3-0, P Maher 2-1, E Larkin, J Mullane 2-0 each, J Canning 1-1, C Donnellan, I Tannian 0-1 each. 2013: C Lehane 1-5, T Kelly 2-1, P Horgan, G Hanniffy 1-1 each, J Conlon 1-0, D McInerney 0-2, K Joyce (f), C Galvin, P Browne 0-1 each.
2012 All Stars – D Burke (Galway); JJ Delaney (Kilkenny), P Murphy (Kilkenny); B Bugler (Clare), B Hogan (Kilkenny), M Cahill (Tipperary); I Tannian (Galway), D Collins (Galway); P Maher (Tipperary), C Donnellan (Galway), E Larkin (Kilkenny); J Mullane (Waterford), J Canning (Galway). Interchange: M Barry, D McGeeney, S Lillis.
2013 All Stars – N Quaid (Limerick); R McCarthy (Limerick), P Kelly (Dublin), D McInerney (Clare); K Joyce (Kilkenny), L Rushe (Dublin), P Donnellan (Clare); C Galvin (Clare), T Kelly (Clare); P Browne (Limerick), C Lehane ( Cork ), P Horgan ( Cork ); J Conlon (Clare). Interchange: J Trolan, G Hanniffy, A Foley.
Ref – J McGrath (Westmeath)