After 10 years as a professional, ex-Munster hooker Mike Sherry called time on his career. He tells Declan Rooney about the decision
Six months ago Mike Sherry left Munster in search of game-time and a shot at extending his career. Three months later he decided to retire from rugby altogether. Now, after the summer of his life, he's comfortable he has made the right decision.
It is likely that his 23 minutes playing for Gloucester in the Premiership semi-final against Saracens will be his last game of rugby and after fighting his way back from a series of long lay-offs, the Garryowen man decided he's had his fill.
Knee, shoulder and back injuries robbed him of almost three prime years of his career but he managed to return for two more seasons before he called a halt. He turned 31 in June, around the time when he realised that after 10 seasons as a professional sportsman it was time to put family first.
"I had 10 weeks over in Gloucester and it was very enjoyable," said Sherry.
"It was a big chance, going over there. My wife was left behind with the two kids and that was very hard for her and I was aware of that. I was trying to get back home as much as I could. But at the same time I knew it was my best chance to give my career a go, and of picking up something for this season.
"I was looking around for clubs, but they knew the longer they left it for players like myself, essentially the more desperate we'd be to pick something up and they'd get us for cheaper. So we just decided to call it, to enjoy the summer and to move on to something else.
"My shoulder was giving me a good bit of grief. I have two young kids now and I wanted to be able to play with them. Picking them up was becoming an issue. Stuff like that was creeping into my head. That was the main deciding factor to be honest. Looking back now I've definitely made the right decision."
Despite all the knocks that the former hooker took it was his left shoulder that wore him down in the end. After he ruptured his cruciate ligament in 2013 it was decided to have shoulder surgery during his recovery, but it took three operations and 21 months sidelined before he finally made it back.
Even in those injury-free last couple of seasons his shoulder remained an issue. Sherry admits he wasn't able to put in the hours he used to honing his throwing skills, while the physicality of match-day also took its toll.
"I felt the longer my career went on the further I was away from the good player I felt I was when I broke on to the team.
"Being honest with myself now, looking back at it, I think my whole game in the last two or three seasons was based around hiding my left shoulder from contact and just working around that.
"I wanted to prove that I was durable after having so many injuries. I wanted to be available for every single weights, pitch and mobility session, but when it came to matches I just wasn't really delivering the performances I wanted to.
"The more I've thought about it since, I've realised I'd be flying in training, which was just semi-contact, but when it came to matches I felt I was very restricted in what I could do.
"I didn't think I was the player I was, I didn't think my throwing ever got back to the standard it was at pre-injury. I did a lot of work on it but it was painful."
Once he had made the decision to retire, Sherry was determined to enjoy the break. His children Georgia and Josh will turn three and one respectively in the next couple of weeks, and after a few months of hitting the beach and meeting up with his extended family again, rugby is a long way from his mind.
"The summer has been great. You could plan things as normal, without having to do it around rugby or training. It was a nice change for me, but particularly Katie, she was getting a bit sick of me dictating life!"
But where does he turn now? Straight from school into the Munster Academy, Sherry has taken some time to assess his options and he pointed to one of his front-row colleagues as being his guiding light as he plunged into the unknown.
"Marcus (Horan) is genuinely brilliant. You can tell he cares. He has been in this position before and since he has gone into this role (Player Development Manager at Rugby Players Ireland (RPI)) he has made a big difference.
"He follows things up, he checks in with you a lot. He has set me up with a lot of different people, given me a lot of information. It's only when I've gone through it the last few months you say, 'Jeez, why didn't I use this when I was playing?'
"I can only implore lads that are currently playing to make more use of him and the RPI and the structures they have around. It helped that I had a very close relationship with him and I can only speak very highly of what he has done for me.
"The plan now is not to rush into anything. I'm actively looking around and weighing up a few options. I'm doing a bit of coaching out in Garryowen. I'm keeping as busy as I can and in the next month or so I'll probably decide what I want to do and explore that avenue."
While he is officially retired there is still plenty of upkeep to be done. He is currently rehabbing a recent clean-out shoulder surgery - to "remove a few screws and things" - but the transition from player to supporter will be completed in the coming weeks.
"I don't know if I'll be there for the Dragons game this weekend because Garryowen might have a game, but I'll definitely go throughout the season. I'm a converted fan now.
"There is absolutely no kind of ill will towards Munster or anything like that. I had an amazing time there and I will 100 per cent be behind the team and not sitting at home begrudgingly hoping they lose.
"I had my time, I loved it and now I'm definitely going to get my kids as supporters and start going along to games."