MIKE Sherry was a young, awe-struck schoolboy in Thomond Park, the day his current Munster team-mate Ronan O’Gara abruptly halted Saracens Heineken Cup ambitions on their only previous visit to Limerick in January 2000.
This Saturday, Sherry and O’Gara will soldier side by side as Munster aim to keep their Heineken Cup ambitions on track with victory over Pool 1 tabletoppers Saracens.
Back 12 years ago, Saracens rolled into town as overwhelming favourites to end Munster’s unbeaten Heineken Cup record at Thomond Park. But times have changed.
Sherry said: “Munster were seen as the underdogs and a great atmosphere built up throughout the week of the game. They all tended to be great occasions which was brilliant.
“I wouldn’t say we are underdogs, but I wouldn’t say we are overwhelming favourites either. We are a coming off a good victory and they had a great victory at the weekend against Gloucester. Their English contingent coming back will be full of confidence. Our Irish players after the Argentina game were full of confidence. I think we are evenly matched.
“You have to target a win in every pool game in the Heineken Cup. We didn’t win against Racing in our first game, so we were on the back-foot from the get-go. Even if you had lost your first three or four games, playing in the Heineken Cup at Thomond Park, you are not going to lie down.
“Saracens have a lot to their game. They have the best line-out in the competition so far. They have 23 out of 23 line-outs which is impressive.
“With their scrum they have huge options and are about three or four deep in every position. That is another area.
“Their backs are obviously dangerous. They have Ashton and Farrell who are coming off the back of a great win over the All-Blacks at the weekend. We will be conscious of that again.
“We were very disappointed how the scrum went against Scarlets. The conditions played a part in it, but to be fair, it was the same for them, so we can’t really use that as an excuse. We knuckled down and got back to work, it was very good last weekend (against Glasgow).
Sherry admits Saracens World Cup winning captain with South Africa, John Smit, was a hooker he admired growing up.
“John Smit is someone I would have looked up to growing up,” 24-year-old Sherry said.
“I would be a big fan of his as a player as well as Schalk Brits who is a very exciting player.
“Whoever they play, it is going to be a big challenge for myself and Varls (Damien Varley). It us one we are looking forward to, seeing what they can do up close and trying to match them.”