"Those turnovers and tackles, they're really vital to the team" - Mullen relishing midfield role
In many ways, for both Ballyhale Shamrocks and Kilkenny, Adrian Mullen plays like something of a quarter-back.
The Shamrocks' own Tom Brady.
The 22-year-old has played the hurling of his life this season, there's no doubt about that and, from start to finish, he's made the midfield position his own.
It culminated in an All-Star for the county at nine and, for the club, Mullen will hope it all ends this Sunday, with a third All-Ireland title.
His from has been consistent the whole way through.
An occasional half forward in previous years, Mullen has become a full-time midfielder now and, considering the skill-set he has, it was only a matter of time. Mullen is born to be a midfielder.
A clever reader of the game, he is one of those players, like Tipperary's Noel McGrath, who always seems to be in acres of space. That's not by chance but when you add to that his composure, even in the tightest of corners, it means that, pressurised or otherwise, Mullen generally makes the right decision on the ball.
Whether that's a ball into the forwards or a shot at goal, he will rarely waste possession. Think of all the inviting balls in, all the times he's popped up in space, all the long range points and all the composure under pressure - as you'll see in the video below - and that's what you have.
A simply incredible team-score from Ballyhale Shamrocks. Perfect hurling, from Mullen, all the way to Shefflin a minute later ☘️pic.twitter.com/9NG8tV1leW
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) October 16, 2022
We talked to the DCU Dóchas Éireann hurler about his role as a midfielder at the launch of the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup.
"We have a game-plan that we have to try and perfect and you know, picking up the ball out around midfield is probably a part of that plan, I try to do it as best as I can and obviously practice it in the training field.
"You mark Joey Holden or Richie Reid in training and you're learning off them as well.
"What to do and what not to do. Certain little tricks to get away from them, and they're very good lads to learn from."
"And I think that's how I got better at dealing with those situations," he adds," being on the ball out in the field, having a couple of lads around you and dealing with those scenarios."
A hard-edge and a will-to-work means Mullen can mix the silk with the rough, which is the perfect blend in midfield. Having played under Brian Cody for four years, this was something he couldn't escape.
"That's probably from being involved with Kilkenny," Mullen adds.
"Brian Cody would always demand that from every single one of his players, to bring that work-rate.
"That's something I probably have worked on over the last couple of years, to get those turnovers, and make those tackles. They are really vital to the team."
For a 22-year-old, it feels as though Mullen has been around for a long time but when asked if he's tried to become more of a leader in the dressing room, he says it's more important just to be himself.
"I wouldn't say I'm trying to do anything extra (in the dressing room)...I'm just myself and whatever qualities I have I'll bring to the dressing room or the pitch and look hopefully other lads can benefit off those.
"I'm not going to try and be someone who I'm not so I just be myself around the dressing room and on the pitch."
And for him, experience has shown that nerves and pressure are a good thing. When he feels the butterflies on Sunday, that's when he'll know he's ready.
"You definitely feel the nerves and pressure, but to be honest I think that's a good thing. I think when you're feeling those nerves and that pressure before it, that suggests that it really means something to you.
"And that you'll give it your all then to get over the line. So I accept those nerves and pressures, and deal with them head on."
After that then, he'll be ready to rock for 2023.
"I’m 22 years of age. I wouldn’t want to be feeling fatigued yet. Once you manage it well, stay in contact with the management teams and the strength and conditioning teams, you’ll be able to manage all the load. I feel good. I’m ready to go for 2023."