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Sheridan eager to seize his moment after long wait

Cathal Sheridan has finally been given his chance to shine. After a long wait in the shadows, the Sligo native is determined to make the most of his game-time with Munster, starting with tonight's Pro12 clash with Dragons.

Plenty of young players have come and gone from the Munster ranks over the years but the 24-year-old was happy to bide his time. Having waited for his chance for the last three years, Sheridan is out to seize every opportunity he gets from now until the end of the season.

The Sligo native admits that the waiting game hasn't always been easy.

"The mental aspect has been the most difficult because when you're working so hard for so long, you believe you're good enough to play," he says. "But with a squad the size of Munster's, you're always going to have to wait a bit."

The scrum-half joined the Munster Academy three years ago – having represented Connacht at underage level – and has since earned a development contract.

"I was quite naive when I came down to Munster. For a while the dream of playing professional rugby was there," he says. "I didn't really know what a sub-academy was. I didn't get the whole set-up. But I think that worked in my favour."

Sheridan made his senior debut earlier this year and was rewarded with a one-year full contract.

"I'm delighted to get the contract sorted. It's something that does play on your mind mid-season. I knew I could play for Munster but so do a lot of people. I'm in my mid-20s so it was really now or never for me."

Such is his positive outlook, Sheridan refused to let the disappointment of being dropped for last month's trip to Glasgow sour the progress that he has made.

"You can't get angry and disappointed about these things because that's infectious and poisonous for the squad. If you get trusted with the jersey you have to mind it," he says.

Sheridan credits Peter Stringer and Tomas O'Leary for helping to develop different aspects of his game but felt a sense of relief when both left Munster, saying: "I grew up idolising Strings but I knew that this was the opening I had been waiting for. It felt like my time."

Sheridan has impressed over the last few months, especially during the international period and was added to Munster's Heineken Cup squad prior to their victory over Harlequins.

"It was incredible," he says. "I always dreamt of it as a kid, it's the reason anyone plays the game. It was something I had targeted early in the season. I always believed I could do it. It would have been nice to get a run but it's a case of one step at a time for me."

He recently captained the 'A' side against Leinster in the game that Paul O'Connell made his comeback from injury in but took it in his stride.

"I didn't think about it until afterwards when a friend of mine from Sligo called me up and said that he never thought he'd see a Sligo man captain a Lions captain!"

Munster have come in for some criticism this season since Rob Penney has tried to introduce his more wide-ranging style of play. But Sheridan says that the squad have been using that as a motivation.

Trusting

"There's been a bit of stick coming from the outside," he says. "But the coaches have been so trusting of us – it's time we paid that back.

"There's a change for the fans from what they're used to seeing, but at the end of the day it's just rugby and it's up to us to make sure we win."

With the season coming to a climax, the scrum-half reveals that the Ireland summer tour of America is in the back of his mind.

"I'm trying not to think about that too much at the moment but if I can keep playing and putting my best foot forward, you've always got your eye on one of the summer tours," admits the Sligo man.

"There's no point in aiming low. If you aim low and achieve it, you're not going to be happy. It's important to focus on something big and do everything you can to try and get it."

Aiming anywhere else but the top isn't something that enters his head.

A place on the plane to America in June would be a fitting ending to what has already been a major breakthrough season for Sheridan.

Irish Independent