Mullen sticking to the Shefflin template for success as summer beckons
AIB Club Hurler of the Year says hard work is the key to future glory with Kilkenny
Adrian Mullen in action for Ballyhale Shamrocks against Ballyboden St Enda’s: “We [Kilkenny] believe as players we can beat anyone on our day.” Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Growing up, Adrian Mullen and his brothers used to leave their hurleys out for Henry Shefflin’s mother to collect when she’d be out walking.
The Shefflins lived just down the road and Henry’s mother, Mai, would get the sticks signed by her famous son and drop them back.
“Then to be managed by him, it’s just unreal, I can’t really describe it, you just have to take it in your stride and learn off him,” said Mullen, who scored five points for Shefflin’s Ballyhale Shamrocks in last month’s AIB All-Ireland club final win.
Around Ballyhale, everyone has their own Shefflin story but Mullen’s is particularly intriguing.
A flame-haired forward himself with similar height and weight characteristics, the former minor sensation, who only played alongside Shefflin for a matter of minutes in 2017, appears to be cut from the same cloth as the great one.
“Just to be in the same sentence as him is just unreal,” smiled Mullen at the suggestion.
Modesty clearly becomes the 19-year-old DCU student who has been named the AIB Club Hurler of the Year for 2018/2019.
But there is only so much he can play down and Brian Cody clearly rates him highly after drafting him into the Kilkenny set-up.
“It was a few months ago now,” said Mullen of Cody’s initial contact.
“You don’t really believe it in the moment, then you actually realise he is being serious. It wasn’t that I thought it was a wind-up, but you just couldn’t believe it, you’re just in shock, like. Once you get in there then you just try to use every session to get better.”
Kilkenny, beaten by Cork in the Allianz League relegation play-off game, met the Munster champions again 10 days later in the Kieran O’Connor benefit game. That was just nine days after Ballyhale’s club win but Mullen lined out in a strong Kilkenny team that were beaten 1-27 to 0-23.
“It was my first game,” said Mullen, who captained the Kilkenny minors to the Leinster title in 2017, scoring 3-38 in that campaign.
“It was obviously a great achievement but you can’t really think of that going out to play the match. You just have to put the head down and work hard, don’t get caught up in all of that. Things probably didn’t go well for us but it was nice to get out there and nice to experience it.”
Shefflin, naturally, had a word in Mullen’s ear beforehand.
“Henry has been great to me throughout the year to be fair, giving me advice in all aspects of hurling and life really,” said Mullen, cousin of Kilkenny icons Colin and Michael Fennelly.
“He’d have a few quiet words with you and just tell you what to be expecting, just continue to work hard really. That’s his motto, just work hard and everything else will follow.”
After a couple of fallow years, Kilkenny aren’t many people’s championship favourites though Mullen, given the company he has been keeping and his family lineage, is optimistic.
“Obviously we believe as players we can beat anyone on our day, you kind of just block out what everyone else is saying,” he said. “We just concentrate on ourselves and try to do our best every day we go out. If our best isn’t good enough, so be it.”