Anthony Foley’s coronation comes a year early
New Munster coach is more than prepared to lead his province
Munster forwards coach Anthony Foley: “I always feel that your unconscious mind should be your guide out on the pitch.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
The plan was evidently to have Anthony Foley promoted as Rob Penney’s successor as head coach from the 2015-16 season onwards but Munster are clearly delighted to have their man a year ahead of schedule judging by Garrett Fitzgerald’s enthusiastic endorsement yesterday.
“He’s a true – I can’t say blue – red Munster man,” said the smiling Munster chief executive, “and always has been for as long as I’ve known him. He’s always wanted the best for Munster. I’ve never seen him any other way. He’s just always wanted the best for the teams he plays for and coaches. He has a phenomenal knowledge of the game, and I think as an individual and a person he is respected by people.”
Fitzgerald would advise Foley to continue being a good listener but also to be his own man. It is not dissimilar to Eric Elwood being chosen midway through Michael Bradley’s final season with Connacht, although therein lies a cautionary tale. Elwood was also a local legend turned assistant and then head coach and found that the head role consumed him even more, which Foley acknowledged is something Elwood has advised him of.
“It did become all consuming for him and that is something that you need your staff around you. You need your manager. Fellas like that will be important to me,” said Foley in reference to Niall O’Donovan, a long-time confidant.
Yet as Fitzgerald also noted being the head coach can be a lonely place “when the-you-know-what hits the fan” and Foley accepts there will be more pressure on him from next season onwards. “You can’t shy away from it. You have to stand up to it. I think we have shown over a period of time in Munster that when it is put to us we stand up, so hopefully I show that in the way I coach as well.”
Asked about his coaching philosophy, Foley said: “I always feel that your unconscious mind should be your guide out on the pitch. At the level we play at, it is very hard to think out there. You have to have a natural game and that is your club. At times we have gone away from that and we have gotten lost and we looked confused out there. At times it seems very natural to us. It is about getting that game which is very effective for us to play.
“I am not going to put us into a bracket, I just want us to play the best game that we can for the players that we have. While doing that, I think it becomes a very effective game . . .”