FIT-AGAIN Munster hooker Mike Sherry admitted he was ‘an emotional wreck’ before his comeback game this season, having spent the previous 21 months sidelined with serious knee and shoulder injuries.
Limerickman Sherry revealed that he did not know if he would ever regain full fitness after undergoing three shoulder surgeries for a recurring injury.
Hooker Sherry finally made his comeback in Munster’s pre-season friendly with Connacht at Thomond Park last month.
“The nervousness was incredible for the first pre-season game. I was a bit of an emotional wreck going onto the pitch.
“It was strange. Pre-season games are not hard to get up for, but they’re going to be incredibly hard on your lungs. You are not looking forward to it that much once the first half is over, you are into the swing of things.
“But going out on the pitch that night, I didn’t know which way it was going to go. I was surprised actually how emotional I was because I didn’t actually think I would ever play again at certain stages, so to get through the first contact, throw the first few line outs, hit a few scrums, was a really great feeling.
“There was an element of relief, a lot of excitement, there is nervousness but it’s just brilliant to be back. The knee is great, I’ve forgotten about that, but the shoulder is a day to day thing, I have to manage it.
“The S&C staff here and PJ Wilson, in particular. He was my rehab trainer over the 21 months, so we have modified my training and we do things that I get the same stimulus of strength and conditioning that doesn’t aggravate my shoulder.
Sherry admitted there were times when he started to feel he would never be able to get back playing rugby at the highest level again because of his injury.
“Damien (Varley) was injured around the same time as me and we would be very good friends.
“We were in early in the day doing our work and then we would pal around together when the lads were doing their work so I got to know him well, still pal around with him quite a lot now. Unfortunately he didn’t win his battle (injury) but he will go on to do good things. He is a smart fella, has a lot of qualifications and he will do well. I never gave up even though there were certainly times when I thought, ‘this is not going to come right.’
“I struggled at times (with the thought of not being able to play again), I was 25 or 26, I didn’t really know what I was going to do with my life after rugby. I didn’t want to think about that, but I had to.
“My girlfriend was a very good person to talk to during that time, my family was great as well, so I talked to a lot of people, people who were injured, the likes of Varls, Earlsie (Keith Earls), PJ Wilson and others, they were great. PJ is a great trainer but a great trainer to talk to as well.
“You get good days and bad days and depending on how the shoulder felt it would dictate my mood which was unfortunate for my family and my missus.”
Sherry also focused on getting a third level qualification with the uncertainty over his playing future.
The Garryowen clubman explained: “I have one module to do to finish my undergraduate and hopefully will start a Masters in February in Real Estate Management).”
Having made a successful comeback from injury, Sherry is ‘buzzing’ with excitement as the season gets up and running in earnest.
“I have done 40, 60 and 80 minutes the last three games and I feel fit. The shoulder is holding up well.
“You cannot compare not being involved around the squad, doing your rehab up in the gym on your own or running by the side of the pitch to doing the full programme, training, recovery days, things you give out about when you are in the squad for a few years, now it’s just a buzz doing anything really.”
Sherry has seen a lot of changes in personnel with the make-up of the Munster squad in recent seasons.
“Yeah, I suppose and now even at 27 I am still in and around being one of the oldest guys in the squad. There are lots of young guys, but it is great. I think we have got some great new signings, some great players coming through the Academy, Rory Scannell you saw the last day, guys like John Madigan who is an incredible talent, a bit of a physical freak, so it’s a really good atmosphere and I am absolutely buzzing to be around the squad again.”
Munster face a stiff test against the Ospreys on Sunday at the Liberty Stadium.
The Ospreys will honour the memory of former player Jerry Collins at their first home game of the new season on Sunday with a minute’s silence prior to kick-off, while the Welsh region will be retiring the number six jersey, synonymous with Collins, for the match.
Mike Sherry said: “It will be a good test going over there. Always in my mind is the game I played over there in a PRO12 semi-final in 2012 when we got absolutely hockeyed. They have a really good side even though they have a lot of players involved with Wales.
“I think I played on a winning Munster team there, but it is a tough place to go. They always have a good front row, you had the two hairy lads (the Jones’) and Hibbard. They always have a good scrum and a good line out. “We’ve done a lot of prep already, the day after tomorrow (Thursday) we’re back in, so we will get a lot of work done, but we will have to.
“It will be an emotional day for the club as they honour Jerry Collins. He was a great player, a fantastic player for the Ospreys. It is a fitting tribute.”