Tuesday 27 September 2016

Irish hooker finally set to return from series of bad injuries problems

Young leader determined to fulfill potential on comeback from shoulder and knee surgery

Daragh Small

Published 22/05/2015 | 02:30

Mike Sherry has battled his way back into contention after a difficult period of injuries
Mike Sherry has battled his way back into contention after a difficult period of injuries

Despite becoming one of Munster's youngest ever captains when he led the team out away to Scarlets in February 2013, hooker Mike Sherry thinks he still hasn't fulfilled his potential.

  • Go To

The 26-year-old Limerick man would surely have taken over the reins from retired friend Damien Varley had he not suffered a similar unlucky fate.

Sherry, who has 70 caps for Munster, scoring five tries and also earning one cap for his country, hasn't played a competitive match in nearly 18 months.

He last wore the Munster jersey in a 18-14 win over Dragons at Rodney Parade and the cruel irony here was Varley replaced him on the night his cruciate ligament gave way.

It was the beginning of a myriad of setbacks that had nothing to do with the ruptured ACL he suffered in his right knee on that cold night in Newport.

"I got the surgery on my ACL a few weeks after picking up the injury and we decided that I would get an extra surgery on my shoulder while I'd be out for the six to nine months with the knee injury.

"I got that done and didn't feel great. Then I went back up to the surgeon and got it re-done and it turned out that the bone grafts had dissolved."

It was the worst possible news for a young man who had made his Munster debut in a bonus-point win over Connacht on St Stephen's Day in 2009.

That night it was Varley who he replaced and Sherry cut a fledgling hooker as he took the field at Thomond Park.

The former Garryowen clubman had come a long way since his first senior provincial appearance, but this season his career had reached its lowest ebb.

Sherry had almost completed an entire pre-season in August 2014 but something wasn't right and his preparation was constantly hampered. It felt loose and painful in the socket and rather than lie to himself and risk further agony he went for an X-ray, which was followed by another dreaded session under the knife.

"I woke up after the operation and realised what had been done and then I thought I had just gone through the whole hell of pre-season, looking to put the knee and shoulder injuries behind me.

"I realised that it was still going to be another six months until I played again. Little did I know I'd have to go and get another surgery again on top of that but that was very tough for me to take. I found that the hardest part.

"I had very dark thoughts there for a good while. I'm good buddies with Varls (Damien Varley) and the fact we were both in it at the same time, we became a lot closer.

"We were spending our afternoons together after rehabbing and training in the mornings and I could see that he was really struggling.

"This was before I got the third surgery, I was convincing myself that I was okay but I knew I wasn't so that was a worrying time for me too," he reflects.

Sherry made his debut for Ireland along with Robbie Henshaw, Stuart Olding, Tommy O'Donnell and Jamie Hagan in a 15-12 win over USA at BBVA Compass Stadium on June 8, 2013.

However, prior to that in 2011 he was called up as injury cover for injured Ulster man Rory Best during Ireland's World Cup campaign in New Zealand.

Everyone knew the skill-set he possessed and when he learned of another required operation, his third in such a short space of time, he could have been forgiven for calling it quits.

But Sherry travelled to England and consultant orthopaedic surgeon Ian Bayley gave him hope that his promising career could yet be retrieved.

"I saw the surgeon in England and he gave me a bit of hope but retirement definitely did cross my mind before that."

He kept on fighting however and attributes a potential comeback to the hard work of the Munster strength and conditioning staff and in particular PJ Wilson.

"It'll never feel like a normal shoulder unfortunately considering I had three big surgeries on it in the space of 11 months.

"I am going to have to alter my training programmes but the strength and conditioning staff have been incredible. PJ has taken me under his wing. He deals with injured players and he's gone above and beyond for me. I think we've found the right balance at the moment."

The man who was just 24 when he captained Munster at Parc y Scarlets is now two years the wiser and he knows it won't be easy getting his place back in the Munster starting XV.

He remains realistic and with Varley retired and Eusebio Guinazu on his way out, he still has to contend with Duncan Casey, Kevin O'Byrne and Niall Scannell for his spot in the No 2 jersey.

"Scans (Scannell) is getting older, bigger, more experienced and Kevin O'Byrne has been a great addition this year. He's a big strong hooker, a great carrier and a good thrower so he's worked himself into the set-up.

"Everybody knows about Duncan so there's definitely competition there. It's not going to be easy but I'm looking forward to being able to just compete after all the injuries and all the rehab.

"Objective number one is to get through a game and I still have tests to come on the shoulder, I'm not fully out of the woods yet," added the Munster hooker.

Irish Independent

Read More

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport