I feared that injury could have ended my career - Sherry
Munster hooker Mike Sherry is looking forward to chalking up some game time and working his way back into the side after overcoming his latest injury nightmare.
The 29-year-old has endured a succession of serious injuries which have hampered his career in recent seasons but now the Limerick man is hoping for a clear run.
He made his first Munster appearance since May 2016 when he featured off the bench in the opening game of the season against Benetton Rugby and since then has been playing for Garryowen in the Ulster Bank League.
A back injury which developed into nerve damage down his left leg saw him miss all of last season and he admits there were times when he feared his career was over.
"There were plenty of times, like it did the previous time I was out, that you just feared you wouldn't be coming back.
"It was hard to keep faith, keep trying. But there is a great medical team in Munster, a great support system with my family and we got there in the end.
"It was a strange one. It was just an incredibly slow injury. I had nerve damage down my left leg so the muscles weren't getting messages from the nerve to fire.
"So my left leg just withered away. It just took ages and ages and ages to build back up strength.
"Initially I got a slipped disc, and I got a discectomy, that's the surgery. I got that done and that was a success. The back was fine but as a consequence, I don't know the exact dynamics of it, it shaves some disc and that was fine but the nerve damage down the left leg was the issue then.
"It just took forever to build back up strength," added Sherry.
He thought he had put his worst injuries behind him when a cruciate injury was followed by a troublesome shoulder problem which kept him out of action for almost two years.
It was a big blow to a player who was drafted in as cover for Rory Best at the 2011 World Cup and who was part of the Irish squad which toured New Zealand.
His first cap came against the USA in 2013 but then the injuries started and his career stalled.
He returned to top form in the 2015-16 campaign but just when he was putting himself in a position to challenge for a spot on the tour to South Africa, injury struck again and he faced more surgery in the summer of 2016.
"I got the surgery in early August and not until about April this year did I really starting seeing a bit of strength coming back in.
"I started running on the pitch. All the physios were on board, I was trying new things, new things in my diet, new supplements, going to see people around the country to try and stimulate the muscles and eventually I got there.
"The coaches and the strength and conditioning staff and the physios, they wanted me to get a good block of a pre-season done before I played. So I stayed around for all of June, while the lads were away I was training."
In the midst of all the recovery work he got married during the summer but he and his wife Katie O'Brien have to park honeymoon plans until next summer as Sherry continued his battle to get back.
"I did pretty much every single session besides the day that I got married. That was the one day I had off over the summer, but it was worth it.
"There is a lot of competition for hooker in Munster. So whatever game time I can get, I will grab with both hands.
"Play with the 'A' team, play with Garryowen, wherever I can play rugby, I am just delighted to be back playing.
"Hopefully I get a chance. I know the competition is pretty stiff and Niall Scannell took a lot of steps forwards last year.
"Rhys Marshall is a quality player, Duncan Casey is coming back from injury and Kevin O'Byrne had a good year last year as well."