The Ballyhale Shamrocks player helped himself to 2-9 as the Saints dismantled St Brigid’s of Loughrea and kept their charge for a fourth successive Croke Cup very much alive.
St Brigid’s were no slouches in the early stages at Tullamore and started like a train. Using their pace to devastating effect they ran at Kieran’s in the opening minutes, taking the lead with points from Dylan Towolawi and Damian McGlynn. Though a Mullen brace soon had Kieran’s back on level terms. St Brigid’s continued to be a real handful, with Donal Mannion leading the charge as they pressed for a way through the Kieran’s defence. However, once Kieran’s found their own rhythm they proved unstoppable.
They began to turn the screw, shutting down the Brigid’s attack before taking over on the scoreboard. In an impressive 17-minute spell of one-way traffic they picked off 1-9 without reply. Mullen was at the heart of that surge, grabbing 1-5 (he hit 1-8 altogether in the first half). His goal formed the centrepiece of that haul, the Kieran’s captain gathering Ted Drea’s 18th-minute handpass and barely pausing to look at the target before rifling the sliotar past goalkeeper Brendan Lynch.
St Brigid’s were seeing stars, and with good reason. By half-time Kieran’s were 1-13 to 0-3 in front.
The Galway side gamely raised their performance in the second half, but a comeback always seemed out of their reach.
Early points from Ronan Glennon and Conor Molloy lifted their spirits, which soared when Towolawi grabbed a 46th-minute goal, but Kieran’s weren’t about to let them get too close. The tricky Ciaran Brennan hit back with a stylish goal, pushing his side’s lead out to 13 points (2-18 to 1-8) by the 53rd minute, before Mullen sent a searing strike to the net little over 60 seconds later to put the seal on an emphatic win and secure a March 25 final meeting with Our Lady’s Templemore in Semple Stadium.
A Mullen (2-9, 5 frees); C Brennan (1-2); E Moylan (0-4); D Barron (0-3); T Drea (0-1).
D Towolawi (1-2); C Molloy (0-4, 0-2 frees); D McGlynn, R Glennon, D Mannion (0-1 each).
D Mason; T Ronan, M Carey, L Murphy; B Lawlor, M Keoghan, K Egan; D Phelan, E O’Shea; A Mullen, T Drea, E Moylan; D Barron, C Brennan, E Shefflin.
S Ryan for Shefflin, 31 mins; B Staunton for Phelan, 42 mins; Pc Mullen for Drea, 53 mins; J Roberts for Brennan, 58 mins; R Whelan for Lawlor, 60 mins.
B Lynch; C Delaney, C Mahony, C Curley; B Burke, S Molloy, V Kenny; R Glennon, B Moran; D Mannion, D Towolawi, S Fallon; J Nevin, C Molloy, D McGlynn.
D Shaughnessy for Fallon, 31 mins; K Hollaway for Nevin, 35 mins; N Horan for Curley, 52 mins; P Martin for Burke, 55 mins; M Coen for McGlynn, 60 mins.
- Cathal McAllister (Cork).