red blooded

Family at the forefront for Sherry as he looks forward to new horizons beyond Munster

With a new baby in the house, the hooker has been travelling back and forth from Gloucester during his loan stint in the Premiersip.

MIKE SHERRY HAS finals on his mind.

Not final acts or final bows, though he is out of contract in the summer after being released by Munster and loaned to Gloucester, but tournament finals. Top class rugby.

There have been points through the years when Sherry has considered hanging up his boots, wondering whether his tireless efforts to rehab a horrible run of injury would ever bear fruit. But now he is fit and healthy. And there is no reason to give up on rugby.

This month, Sherry was one of four names on the list of players whose contract would not be renewed, with no part to play in the province’s plans for the coming seasons.

Ian Nagle and Mike Sherry after the game Sherry embraces with former team-mate Ian Nagle in Belfast in December. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Naturally, news of his impending exit from Munster was massively disappointing for the Limerick man. He wasn’t to know that his final act for his native province would be to help salvage a losing bonus point on a dirty winter inter-pro night in Belfast.

That deep cut could scarcely have come at a tougher time for Sherry as he and his wife Katie celebrated the birth of their son Josh just six months ago. Their second child after two-year-old Georgia.

He remains Munster to the core, harbouring no hint of a grudge with the organisation. Quite the opposite. Shedding the tag of Munster player simply turned him into a Munster fan and he was among the red army who watched the southern province succumb to Saracens in Coventry alongside his new house-mate Gerbandt Grobler.

“I’ve no hard feelings towards Munster at all, it’s an incredible part of my life,” Sherry told The42 this week from his new workspace at Gloucester’s Hartbury training base.

Even during the low times, I still went in and had incredible craic every day, playing very hard. Even when things weren’t going well I still absolutely loved my job.  I’m a massive fan now. I haven’t missed a game since I came over here.

“I hope they win something this year… or ‘we,’” he corrects himself briefly back into the old habit and jokes that he might even get a medal sent his way if the visitors can take a win away from the RDS this afternoon and follow it up in Celtic Park.

Perhaps it would be fitting if Sherry was to step away from Munster while ribbons were tied to a trophy. At 22, in his second season of senior rugby, he was part of the last Munster squad to secure a title, the 2011 Celtic League title earned on a terrific, tough day out at Thomond Park.

On that occasion, Leinster had just equalled their neighbours’ haul of two European Cups. Nobody in Munster could have imagined that, eight years on, their most fierce rivals would double that tally while their own trophy cabinet gathered dust.

Mike Sherry and Jamie Heaslip Sherry breaks beyond Jamie Heaslip in the 2011 Grand Final. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“It is a special memory,” says Sherry, “I had all my family there and friends. Leinster were riding high, they had won the European Cup the week before. It was a brilliant day. We played well, deserved our victory and had a good few days afterwards. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to win anything since.

“Hopefully the lads can do it in the next two games. If they get to the final, it would be well deserved. They’re getting a lot of flak at the minute, but I know there’s a couple of big performances in them.

“Couple of lads moving on who I’m sure the lads will want to put in a big shift for.”

Himself included, though that’s not who he means.

“I’d have loved to have stayed on, but I understand that lads get in while I’m injured. Same way lads were injured when I got my break.”

Injuries make the rugby world go round. Gloucester went searching for an out-of-favour hooker due to a season-ending Achilles injury sustained by Australian James Hanson. So at 30, Sherry is enjoying the new horizons beyond Munster’s borders even if he never sought them out.

There is much more rugby in the internationally-capped hooker than the four appearances and 61 minutes he has played in the Premiership, but he is grateful to be in the thick of it. A fresh start must also deliver a sense of a clean break as far flung fields bringing fewer reminders of his injury torment when it is not common knowledge. He can focus on the present and future rather than be dogged by the past.

“It definitely is refreshing,” says the hooker. “New bit of energy and a new group of lads. I’ve settled in pretty well. As I say, it’s a lovely part of the world and we’re challenging for a trophy which is very important and exciting.

“It’s definitely been an experience I’d look back on fondly. I’m happy I took up the opportunity. It came on me out of nowhere, but after talking to my wife, Munster coaches and my agent I couldn’t really refuse.

“It’s worked out well and, hopefully, we can top it off with a trophy.”

Mike Sherry James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The path to silverware is even more daunting for Gloucester than it is for Munster. Johan Ackermann’s side know they will be facing the league’s second seed in the tournament semi-final next weekend. And, as things stand, that will be Saracens.

Just the sort of standard he craves to test himself against.

What comes after, for the moment, is up in the air for the hooker. The limitations that injuries imposed on his career leave him with very few miles on the clock, but he does not yet have a contract locked in anywhere next season.

The World Cup complicate matters too, as the quadrennial southern hemisphere exodus north gives clubs a wide array of choice.  His young family are the primary concern now. Katie, Georgia and Josh remain in Limerick while Sherry crosses the water for his 10-week stint in Gloucester, so Mike has been keeping a keen eye for windows to return home.

“It’s an awkward year with the World Cup and all the leagues are starting later next year, but I’m actively looking at a few options I’ve to weigh up…

“Nothing set in stone yet, I’m very keen to keep playing, but it has to make sense for my family. I’d love for them to come with me. 

“Finding the right fit, because I feel I can contribute, definitely, if I can get a game. I’ve struggled really to get games over the last two years.

I’ve been pretty injury-free for two years now. It’s just actually getting game-time and playing matches. You can’t replicate that.

“If I get a consistent run of games, I definitely feel I can get back to where I was a couple of seasons ago.”

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