Every young child in Kilkenny looks up to their hurling heroes of the past decade and hopes to one day emulate their success, and Adrian Mullen was no different growing up.
However, unlike many of the other children, his heroes were a lot closer to home in the form of his first cousins and clubmates, Michael and Colin Fennelly.
The brothers have amassed an impressive collection of medals between them, including 12 All Ireland’s and 13 Leinster titles. For a young Adrian Mullen, there was no better source of advice as an aspiring hurler in Kilkenny.
“They’ve been a great help over the few years, they’ve been very good to me, gave me advice.
“The day before the All-Irelands a few years ago, Mick and Colin used to call into the house. I used to be looking at them, wondering if I’ll ever make it.
“Even to win an All-Ireland with the club is unreal, but you do want to go that one step further and become one of them.”
The youngster has followed all the advantageous paths to becoming a successful hurler in the county. As well as working hard and impressing at club level, Mullen also attended the coveted St Kieran’s College.
With pictures of its former students adorning the walls, Mullen couldn’t but be inspired.
“The atmosphere around the place is unreal, I don’t think you get it anywhere else. I was just very grateful to go there and the teachers there were a great help. The manager Tom Hogan was unreal help.
“They guide you through and give you advice and try to develop you as a player.”
“Just seeing the lads up there – DJ, Henry, everybody and Eoin Kelly from Tipp. You’d be hoping that some day you’d be up there. It makes you have that bit of belief.
“They used to be one of us and now look at them. It makes you want to work hard and get to where they were.”
That hard work has certainly paid off. As well as winning his first AIB Senior Club All Ireland medal with Ballyhale Shamrocks last month, Mullen was subsequently named the Club Hurler of the Year.
Unsurprisingly, he was called up to the Kilkenny senior hurling panel a few months ago, something he has craved ever since he was a young boy.
He admits that he was “shocked” to receive the call from Brian Cody.
“It was a very weird moment. You’re just thinking when you’re a young lad to get in there for a few training sessions, but just to get that call was unreal.”
As eager as he is to pull on the black and amber jersey, Mullen is fully aware that it will require a lot of hard work.
“No matter where you are, you want to work hard and develop. If that takes you on further, then good but if the chance doesn’t present itself you just work harder. When you get that chance then, you take it with both hands and make the most of it.”
Ballyhale Shamrock’s Adrian Mullen was crowned the AIB GAA Club Hurler of the Year for 2018/19. AIB and the GAA honoured 30 players on Saturday evening at the second annual AIB GAA Club Player Awards, held at a prestigious event in Croke Park.