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'Munster have been incredible... They looked after me and I feel I owe them a lot'

Mike Sherry is hoping to make up for lost time and reward Munster’s faith in him.

OUT OF SIGHT, out of mind.

As Mike Sherry has endured a couple of injury nightmares in recent years, it’s been easy to forget just how good a player the Limerick man is.

Importantly, Munster have always appreciated the 29-year-old Limerick man’s quality and the fact that he is still part of their squad having spent two-and-a-half of the last five seasons out of the game underlines that fact.

Mike Sherry with today's match mascots Sherry captained Munster against Ulster last weekend. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Sherry would likely hit 100 appearances for the province a few years ago were it not for injuries, but he reached that milestone on Saturday evening at Thomond Park as he captained Munster to a 24-24 draw with Ulster.

“The lads were slagging me that the curse is over,” said Sherry with a smile afterwards. “I captained Munster twice before and they lost, so luckily we didn’t lose today.”

The affable hooker has been fit and available for most of the current season, but with Rhys Marshall, Niall Scannell and Kevin O’Byrne in good form, Sherry has found it difficult to work his way up the pecking order.

In his younger years, the former Ardscoil Rís student looked like he was destined to become Munster’s long-term frontline hooker, with nine starts in the 2011/12 season and then 19 in the 2012/13 campaign.

Such was his potential that Sherry was called into Ireland’s 2011 World Cup squad as precautionary injury cover for Rory Best, while he toured New Zealand under Declan Kidney in 2012, although he didn’t feature in the Tests.

His first cap came in the summer of 2013 against the US but he hasn’t been able to push for more international honours since.

Sherry tore his ACL late in 2013 before back-to-back shoulder operations meant he missed the entire 2014/15 season.

He made 15 starts in his comeback campaign in 15/16, but then a back issue saw him ruled out for all of last season.

“Munster have been incredible,” said Sherry of the province’s patience. “When I was out for two years with my shoulder, they gave me a contract purely off faith.

Ireland's Tommy O'Donnell with Mike Sherry Sherry made his debut for Ireland in 2013. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I didn’t even know. I came into pre-season and hadn’t played any games and didn’t know how I was going to go but luckily that worked out fine. And they’ve given me a contract for next year as well.

“I haven’t played that much this year but it’s good to know that I’m still rated. I spoke to Johann [van Graan] and kinda asked him, ‘Why do you want to keep me around, what is it?’ and he said, ‘I can see you can play rugby in training. I know you’ve had a rough ride but I want you here, I know you can contribute.’

“Garrett [Fitzgerald]‘s been great, Niall [O'Donovan], Axel – they all looked after me really well and I feel I owe them a lot.”

The tough injury times are now hopefully behind Garryowen club man Sherry for good as he looks to make an impact on the pitch again for Munster, but he admits there were days when he wondered if he would get back.

“I hate thinking of myself as injury-prone because I have only had one or two very serious injuries. The niggles and stuff, I play and train through.

“I like to think I can get through the pain barrier but, unfortunately, the injuries I did have required major surgeries and I was at such a low level last year with my leg [before the back surgery], when I couldn’t get past five calf raises and I couldn’t run.

“It was incredibly demoralising after getting back from my shoulder.

“There were definitely days I was going in and doing five calf raises and my leg was completely shot for the day and I was thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to play rugby again?’ There were definitely times when I didn’t think I would make it back.

“But I definitely would have regretted it if I had walked away during the shoulder nightmare or if I walked away last year. I did think of it, but I knew I’d regret it.

Munster's Mike Sherry There is strong competition at hooker but Sherry wants to win a trophy. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“I know that if I can stay fit I can put pressure on the lads and contribute to this environment. We’re just desperate to win in this group and if I saw the lads lifting a trophy and I had no involvement and I was sitting in the stands I would have had serious regrets, so I stuck with it.”

Indeed, having watched some of his peers winning trophies with Ireland, Sherry has maintained his hunger to lift some silverware with Munster.

“I saw Conor Murray, Keith Earls, Peter O’Mahony, Zeebs all excelling – fellas whom I’m really close friends with and who I would have come through with. Earlsy was a bit before us, but really in and around the same time.

“We played in the A team together coming through and made our debuts close enough to each other, so just seeing them excel and achieve, the likes of Murray winning a Six Nations, all of that was a big spur for me.

“Also, I would have felt very unfulfilled. I know we have a group who can win trophies so that’s my main focus now – getting in and around the 23 and actually winning a trophy before I retire.”

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Murray Kinsella

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