Mike Sherry retains belief in Munster gameplan despite setbacks
Hooker focused on building on positives in province’s upcoming derbies against Leinster and Ulster
Munster’s Mike Sherry and Francis Saili grapple with Ben Youngs of Leicester during the European Champions Cup round four tie at Welford Road, Leicester. Photograph: Inpho
Four defeats in a row would test the nerve of any team, and Munster are no different. As they licked their wounds and boarded an early morning flight out of Birmingham, they were left to reflect on their failure to translate some adventurous rugby into points. They lost 17-6, but even more so than a week previously, this was not a 17-6 match.
Munster feel they are desperately, frustratingly close, but of course, they need to start transferring their running rugby into points and wins, both in their upcoming derbies against Leinster and Ulster, and then three consecutive European games. Otherwise, Munster’s season is in danger of running away from them.
“That’s the beauty of being a professional rugby player,” maintained hooker Mike Sherry. “We’ve Leinster at home over the Christmas period, that’s as big a match as any and we’ll keep believing in what we’re doing. We’ll come in and review and learn from what we did and didn’t do, and review Leinster, and hopefully we can actually finish the job next weekend and get a win.”
The manner in which Munster took the game to Leicester in their own lair belied a team in a losing run. “Yea, we still have belief in this gameplan,” said Sherry. “We played with loads (of ball), we just need to finish it off. We still have belief in it, we believe in what we’re doing and we believed we could go over to Welford Road and win. Unfortunately it didn’t happen but yea, we did start the game very well, got a few turnovers, linked in with the backs, got a few kicks at goal but we didn’t capitalise.”
Of course, the more a team leaves chances behind by forcing passes inside the opposition 22, the more they are liable to feel the pressure to convert rather than stay patient. Munster matched Leicester in all the stats – possession, territory, line breaks and offloads – save for one, as they made 19 turnovers to 12, and one ventures a good chunk of them were in the opposition 22.
“We have Leinster and Ulster in the next two weeks so we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing and just bring that extra 10 per cent. Whether we get there I’m not sure but we’re very close. It’d be more frustrating if we came over here and didn’t play well and got hockeyed by Leicester. I don’t know if I’d feel more disappointed than I am now so it’s a hard one to sum up.”
To see the bedevilled Sherry make his first start since October due to a knee injury was also encouraging in itself. Now in his fifth season as a professional, heaven knows how many more games the 27-year-old would have for province (78) and country (one) but for his cruel luck with injury.
But even at the outset of his latest comeback, Sherry again showed what a fine rugby player he is. His darts were on the money, Munster winning 15 of their 16 lineouts, and as ever was strong and composed on the ball. Indeed, the performance of a young indigenous frontrow in this most testing of environments rightly earned unstinting praise from Anthony Foley, in particular John Ryan’s performance against Marcos Ayerza et al.
“Yea, brilliant; John did brilliant,” said Sherry. “I’d no fears coming into the game. He scrummaged really well during the week. He’s a quality player around the pitch, he just needs to show people he can scrummage in a big game and I think he did that. He might get the chance next week, I’m not sure but I’ve no fear of John if he plays loose or tighthead.”
After being switched between the two positions persistently, Ryan deserves a run at tighthead now, while James Cronin again demonstrated what a fine loosehead he is on the ball.
“Yeah, Jamesy and Killer (David Kilcoyne), there’s some battle going on there,” said Sherry with a smile. “They’re both psychos. It’s brilliant, whoever comes on for the other, whoever starts, they both make an impact. Jamesy had another brilliant game; he’s just an incredible player and then I’ve known Killer for years so it’s hard to pick one over the other. It’s a great competition and I don’t think too many teams have two looseheads of the quality we have.”