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'Fans can give out about coaches but coaches didn’t make us drop the ball'

Munster hooker Mike Sherry says the squad’s players need to deliver this weekend in Leicester.

ANTHONY FOLEY has taken more criticism than anyone in Munster for his side’s poor form, but his players are determined to win in Leicester on Sunday for their head coach and his backroom team.

Mike Sherry Sherry says the onus is on the players to deliver. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Questions have been asked of whether Foley’s coaching is getting the best from the southern province after defeats to Connacht, the Dragons and the Tigers, but hooker Mike Sherry says the former number eight and his coaching team have laid a strong foundation for their players.

Eradicating the errors that have littered Munster’s defensive effort and attack inside the opposition 22 is a duty the players must take responsibility for, according to the once-capped Ireland international.

“I can’t say much about last season because I wasn’t involved at all,” said Sherry, who was injured in 2014/15, “but this season they have put the structures in place, we have every move, every eventuality planned for.

“The strength and conditioning staff, the doctors, the medical team; they are all on top of everything so us as players need to deliver now. Fans can give out about coaches all they want but coaches didn’t make us drop the ball at the weekend, they didn’t make us kick away the ball when we didn’t need to, didn’t make us make individual errors.

“That is something we need to deliver on and bring to the game and have pride in your job. As a thrower I have pride in my throwing. If it is crap at the weekend I go away and look at it, come back in early on Monday morning and try and fix it.”

Sherry says the frustration over last weekend’s 31-19 Champions Cup defeat to the Tigers manifested itself on the training pitch in Limerick on Tuesday, when a session that was intended only to involve a small portion of contact got “heated.”

Addressing the worrying defensive errors of recent weeks has been a priority for Munster in the build-up to the return leg against Leicester, as missed tackles and a lack of aggression in the defensive line cost them dearly again last weekend.

Mike Sherry Sherry says training on Tuesday turned into full contact very quickly. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“It’s addressed every week,” says Sherry. “Cossie, Ian Costello our defence coach, has done an incredible job all season. His analysis is second to none. After every squad day you go down to the corner and you work on your tackle technique with him.

“For me personally when I came back from injury, tackling was a big concern for me and I went to him. He built up the technique that I had, and the strength that I had to do it. We just need to finish off the tackles – again, that’s personal responsibility, getting the job done. It’s as simple as that.”

Sherry puts the missed tackles down to a combination of system errors, technique and mindset.

“It’s a collection of those. There was a few system errors, there was a few one-on-one tackles that should have been finished off, lads would say that themselves. Just put your head in a place that hurts and finish off the tackle.”

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Frustration at Munster’s poor form was obvious in the closing stages of last weekend’s defeat at Thomond Park, as some fans opted to leave early and others joined in with an ironic cheer when the under performing Ian Keatley was replaced.

Though Sherry and his teammates have turned their attention to upcoming matters on Sunday at Welford Road, the hooker says he was disappointed by events at Thomond Park.

“I’m very reluctant to give out about the Munster fans because of the support we’ve got. When I was a young fella going over to the final in 2000, it was just incredible, but I did obviously notice that what happened on the weekend has been well reported at this stage.

“That was really disappointing and it is a small section but it doesn’t matter, we tried unbelievably hard, we put our bodies on the line, we prepare very well during the week and left no stone unturned. That was really disappointing.

Mike Sherry scores a try despite Graham Kitchener Sherry scored a try in the second half for Munster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It saddened me a bit to hear fans doing that to a Munster player but I know that is only a small section and I’d prefer if that small section didn’t come back to our games.

“But the overall majority are incredibly supportive, they have our backs for this weekend and I have no doubt there is going to be a huge Munster contingent over in Welford Road. They are going to get tickets through however many outlets and they are going to be there and hopefully we can reward them with the big performance and the victory.”

Sherry has been through an incredibly tough time to be in this position with Munster, with three surgeries meaning he spent almost two full years out of the game before a return this season.

A knee injury in the Champions Cup win over Treviso in November initially looked bad, but he has thankfully recovered swiftly and scored a try off the bench in the defeat to Leicester last weekend.

Sherry looks a good bet to start in the number two shirt this weekend for the make-or-break clash in Leicester and says it is weekends like this one that drove him through his ACL and shoulder injury hell.

“Every day is a bonus,” says the Limerick man. “I can’t believe I’m here after what I went through. My mindset hasn’t changed from when I was in the squad back two years ago. I’m still ambitious, I still think I can prove myself against the best hookers in Europe and the world.

“I felt I was coming into a very good place coming into the Treviso game. That knee injury set me back a bit. I wasn’t happy with the way I played at the weekend but felt great in training and feel 100%. These weeks are what got me through a tough time.”

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