There may be plenty of positives from Munster’s season so far, but that will count for nothing if the province does not go on and finish the job, says Cathal Sheridan.
The scrum-half, set to continue his comeback from a knee injury this Saturday when the RaboDirect Pro12 leaders welcome Zebre to Musgrave Park, said that was the message the players received from Rob Penney and Simon Mannix when the duo announced they were to leave their posts at the end of the season last Thursday.
Munster may be top of the league and looking forward to a home Heineken Cup quarter-final with Toulouse after a campaign that has seen just three defeats but the 25-year-old said Penney and Mannix urged the squad to stay focused for the season.
“We were as shocked as anyone when we heard the news,” Sheridan said of the players’ reaction to the coaches’ announcement.
“It’s obviously disappointing because we’re going quite well, but I think himself and Simon, when they said it to us, they couldn’t have been, as they have been since they got here, they were incredibly professional about it. They said ‘we’re halfway through the season, we’ve a quarter-final to look forward to, we’re fighting for a Rabo semi, there’s no point in shaking hands, saying goodbye’.
“We’re halfway through a job and we’ll say our goodbyes and the tears and everything like that at the end of the season when hopefully we’ve got a bit of silverware.”
The bluntness of the message kept the players focused, the proof of which was shown by the way Cardiff Blues were dispatched 54-13 at Thomond Park last Saturday night to maintain their place at the top of the league table.
“You don’t quite know how people are going to react. You don’t know if everybody’s going to be walking around with their heads down or things like that but it didn’t change anything.
“It was a very matter of fact meeting the guys had with us. It was ‘this is what’s happening, this is the situation’ which I think was good. It’s been the way they’ve dealt with us since they got here. ”
A year on from his league debut against Edinburgh in Musgrave Park, Sheridan’ s career progression has been a steady one, through to a Heineken Cup debut at home to Gloucester in October and then, as Conor Murray faced a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury, his first European start in the dramatic 18-17 win at Stade Aimé Giral.
Another start came against Scarlets before calamity struck on January 3 when Sheridan limped out of the league game at Ulster with a similar knee injury to Murray’s. He would not reappear until last weekend when he came off the bench as a replacement for Duncan Williams in the victory over Cardiff.
“I know I only got 10 or 12 minutes, but there’s nothing like being out on the pitch.”
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