KICKING KING Ballyhaunis goalkeeper Adrian Philips kicked 0-13 in the Mayo Intermediate Championship. Pic: Michael Donnelly
Ballyhaunis goalkeeper Adrian Philips is enjoying a fairytale season
IT says a lot about Adrian Philips that his stand-out memory from the recent County Intermediate Final victory revolves around one of his team-mates.
“The look of joy on Keith Higgins’ face when the final whistle blew,” reflected the Ballyhaunis goalkeeper. “He’s an incredible player, a great clubman, and even after everything he’s achieved in the game, winning this county title meant so much to him.”
It meant the world to Philips too.
He remembers standing on the pitch in Charlestown a year earlier after Mayo Gaels had pipped Ballyhaunis in the County Final. He and his team-mates had all ‘learned a lot’ from the experience.
“This year the whole panel really bought into the system that the management put in place.
“Paul Jordan, Ronan Kenny, Brian Mulrennan, all the management. . and the players all learned from last year. The best thing about winning it was really the feeling that the hard work had paid off.”
The 28 year-old geography teacher was joined in the victorious Ballyhaunis squad by his brothers, Mark and Diarmuid, and cousins, Eamonn and Padraic.
They were continuing the proudest of family traditions.
“My father and a few of my uncles [Brian, Michael, Cathal, Paddy and Richard] were on the Ballyhaunis team that won the Intermediate in 1988,” Adrian told The Mayo News.
“My father was delighted after we beat Kilmeena, he just wanted to get the cup straight away!”
There is so much more to the talented dual player than meets the eye.
As well as being Ballyhaunis’s first-choice goalkeeper, he is also the team’s second highest scorer in the championship with 0-13 from six games.
Philips also scored a goal in the County Senior Hurling Final, was the joint captain of the Mayo hurlers last season, and has played in three national hurling finals at Croke Park in the last three seasons.
For most of the last six months he has trained five nights a week collectively — between his big ball and small ball commitments — and is in the gym on his nights off with a gang of his team-mates. Why? “Because I love it,” he smiled.
“I like the football and hurling equally.
“There are 17 or 18 of us who are dual players, we’ve been training five nights a week since May and in the gym twice a week as well, so we spend so much time together that there’s a great bond there between all the dual players.
“We love it, I love it.
“I love the process,” he added. “I love the actual training. And the journey we’re on together.
“We were car pooling last night up to training in Athlone and that’s the sort of thing I enjoy as much as anything.”
Considering he only started playing in goal ten years ago, Adrian Philips’ rise to prominence has been impressive.
But it’s happened by design rather than accident.
He works hard on his game and loves nothing more than heading down to the local pitch to practice his kicking. He has also benefitted from some tips from former Donegal goalkeeper, Paul Durcan, and the regular promptings of Ballyhaunis coach, Ronan Kenny.
Not to mention the insight of team manager, Paul Jordan, who played in goal when Ballyhaunis won the County Intermediate title in 2014, back when Adrian Philips was his understudy.
“I’ve had a decent season,” he admitted. “I’ve made mistakes here and there but Ronan Kenny and myself and Neil Carney, the other ‘keeper, have worked hard trying to get improve at every session.
“I put in a lot of work on my own as well, especially on my kicking and free-taking.
“I was only at a 50% conversion rate last year but I found a technique that suits me this year and I’ve been striking the ball well. If I get a good connection on the ball, I’m very happy. “Whether the kick goes over or not, I get a buzz out of connecting properly.
“Paul Jordan can take a lot of credit, in fairness, he gives great advice.”
And if Kevin McStay ever came calling?
“I’d definitely love to play with Mayo, but that’s the management’s call,” he replied diplomatically.
“Consistency is the main thing. Rob Hennelly and Rory Byrne are very consistent with their kick-outs and good shot-stoppers.”
Right now his only focus is on trying to keep this winning streak going with Ballyhaunis.
The way he sees it, next weekend is only another brick in the wall.
“I’d really like to go on another journey with this team.
“We felt that we made a lot of mistakes in the County Final, so we’ve been trying to get better in every session since. And we’re looking at next weekend as ‘Game Seven’ of our championship.
“There’s absolutely no talk about ‘bonus territory’ in Ballyhaunis.”
Connacht IFC semi-final
Ballyhaunis v Dunmore
Saturday, November 19
Castlebar at 3pm