The Big Interview: Cathal Sheridan - Sligo native ready to put his top form on display after injury
Exciting No 9 confident he can force his way into first team and push Murray all the way
Published 16/10/2015 | 02:30
There wasn't a huge amount of recruitment in Munster over the summer, but the quality of it was second to none.
Paul O'Connell is hard to replace, but Mark Chisholm looks to be a leader already; JJ Hanrahan was a big loss, but Tyler Bleyendaal's delayed emergence has come as a timely boost. Francis Saili has added a real touch a class in the centre; and Tomás O'Leary has added depth at scrum-half.
But it's not as if there wasn't a vast array of talent fighting it out to wear the No 9 jersey already, even though Ireland international Conor Murray is ahead of the pack.
And although Cathal Sheridan will find it tough to get lengthy game-time, he relishes the chance to up it another level.
"At the end of the day our goal is to be a Munster team that wins European trophies. If you are looking to do that you want the best players and best competition.
"Tomás has won a Grand Slam, he was likely to go on a Lions tour and was very unfortunate not to - we got a top-class player.
"If anyone asks you about Conor being the first-choice nine, I have always said: 'That is somewhere you want to reach, you need to be pushing for that. If you are not trying to get there every day, and not backing yourself - saying that jersey can be mine - there is no point in playing'.
"I don't think anyone is happy enough to sit back and be second or third choice. That is not the way to go, not for a club like us anyway," Sheridan says.
He is still relatively inexperienced at the top end, he made his Munster debut in the 2012-13 season but has only amassed 31 appearances for the reds, with three in Europe.
The 26-year-old Ransboro native has bags of talent, and determination to match, but injury has been the bane of his career. He hails from Sligo and played with Connacht up until U-20 level but his mother, Eileen, is a proud Limerick woman.
It meant the Treaty County was always his second home, and after he finished in Sligo Grammar School, UL was the preferred destination, and he lives in Annacotty now.
"I studied Arts, with English and Psychology. It's definitely something I'm interested in. I am still not fully sure what am I going to do once I get into 'the real world'.
"I like to think psychology, when it comes to sports, is something that I am interested in. It's something I could pursue into the future but it would be more of an interest rather than a direct line of work at the moment."
During his studies, Sheridan joined the Munster sub-academy and had to endure a tough elevation through the ranks.
Together with current Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne, lock Dave Foley and ex-Connacht hooker Sean Henry, he fought hard to secure a professional contract.
Eventually Sheridan's persistence paid off in 2013, and after playing his way into the first team, he was delighted to be part of the senior squad.
"It was very enjoyable learning here at Munster, but it was a tough load to get there. In the nature of sport, you are always trying to aim a little bit higher. So it made it all the better to finally sign that paper."
After the tough apprenticeship he had put in, Sheridan had every right to feel positive when he made eight Pro12 appearances in his first season.
In 2013-14 he got his chance in Europe, and took it with both hands on his first start, when Munster stunned the powerhouses of Perpignan with a Hanrahan try from the last play of the game, in their own backyard.
"That was a great experience. It was nerve-wracking, but it was a good type of nerves. I don't think anyone who plays the game doesn't feel nerves. It was a great game and went down to the wire and certainly jumps out in memory.
"I was young but I wasn't that young so I wasn't overly naive back then. I think it was the next game that I played when I got injured. I was out for over a month then, and I was brought down to earth."
But once injury struck for the first time, it raised its ugly head a couple of times since. And when he broke his forearm for the second time, it took its toll. "I think I'm a little unfortunate rather than unlucky, it's just the way it happens. Obviously I'd prefer I didn't get them.
"I would definitely say the last time I broke my arm was the toughest. It wasn't a clear snap of the arm like I had had on previous occasions. It was quite an innocuous collision, it was after the game that I felt the pain.
"We got countless scans on it and nothing showed up. It was going through my head for a while that I was a bit of hypochondriac, and I wasn't actually injured.
"That was tough because it took me out for a long time. I didn't know what was wrong with it."
Sheridan is back now however and cannot wait to pit his wits against Murray, O'Leary and Duncan Williams this season.
"We have a run of 16 games in a row. If you were to ask every member of our squad would they like to play every game, they would say yes. But that's not possible.
"When you aren't playing you need to be just as focused and clued in. You could get your chance that week, or the following week.
"But you have to take it when you are there. Not only are you letting yourself down you are letting the team down if you don't."